C4 hits its numbers, eyes top exec

Co. expected to meet pre-tax profit target

LONDON — Channel 4, Blighty’s second biggest commercial terrestrial web, is poised to post impressive results despite continued difficulties in the advertising market.

Company is expected to have met its pre-tax profit target of £45 million ($76.5 million) in the year to Dec. 31, compared with $28 million in 2002, thanks partly to cost cuts.

C4’s 4 Ventures business, which includes digital channels E4 and FilmFour, has stemmed losses from the previous year’s $47.6 million.

What remains of its Film Four production arm, downsized when Mark Thompson succeeded Michael Jackson as CEO two years ago, is expected to move into the black.

The figures, to be published in C4’s annual report in April, will bring much-needed encouragement for an outfit struggling to reposition itself in the fast-changing U.K. TV business where a merged ITV may pose a threat to the company’s revenue base.

Meanwhile, C4’s new chairman is expected to be named this week following recommendations from Blighty’s new communications regulator, Ofcom.

Penny Hughes, erstwhile president of Coca-Cola U.K. and Ireland, has emerged as the favorite to succeed Vanni Treves, ahead of Bob Phillis, CEO of the Guardian Media Group, a former deputy director general at the BBC and high-ranking exec within ITV. Appointment must be approved by Media Minister Tessa Jowell.

Hughes made a splash for winning the Coca-Cola job in 1992 at the age of 32, subsequently resigning in 1994 to spend more time with her baby.

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