C4 plans two more digital nets

Unclear if genre-specific channels will be free or pay

LONDON — Channel 4, Blighty’s second biggest terrestrial network, is planning to launch at least two additional digital webs as it gears up for digital switchover.

The two come on top of More4, due on air early next year. They’re likely to be genre-specific channels specializing in music, factual programming and perhaps comedy. It’s not clear if they will be free-to-air or pay nets.

More4 will be C4’s first new net since E4 emerged three years ago. As a free channel it will be available on all U.K. multichannel platforms.

Web will provide a mix of acquired and factual material for auds in their 40s and 50s.

E4 is expected to break even this year after losing £5.1 million ($8.7 million) in 2003.

The news that C4 intends to beef up its digital portfolio — the station also runs movie net FilmFour — came as the outfit’s commercial arm, 4 Ventures, announced improved financial results following a bruising period that has seen heavy losses incurred by its investment in racing channel attheraces. C4 is pulling out of the racing venture.

Overall, 4 Ventures made a pre-tax profit of $7 million last year, compared with a $30.1 million loss in 2002. Revs increased 12% to $236 million.

Losses in FilmFour Ltd., C4’s movie division, much scaled down under CEO Mark Thompson, fell from $48.8 million in 2003 to $6.3 million last year. FilmFour expects to report a small profit in 2004.

However, its investment in U.K. pics is capped at $17 million a year.

Woodward said he hoped to double profits in the current year and contribute £10 million to the main channel.

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