Soaring ’04 profit gooses C4 programming budget

Revenue increases from $1.4 to $1.5 bil

LONDON — U.K. terrestrial Channel 4 is poised to hike its program budget to £500 million ($900 million) on the back of record 2004 profits, the web announced Wednesday.

The increase in program spend is likely to benefit U.S. studios because of the high level of acquired shows and movies C4 airs.

CEO Andy Duncan reported an after-tax profit of $83 million, up 34% on last year. Increase is attributable to record ad revenue and a threefold profit rise at commercial arm 4 Ventures.

Revenue increased from $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion.

C4’s program budget is now $873 million, but Duncan indicated that could increase to $900 million by the end of the year if ad revs hold up.

C4 is enjoying a successful creative streak thanks to fare including drama “Shameless,” reality show “Jamie’s School Dinners” and award-winning docu “The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off.”

“Desperate Housewives” was its most successful winter show, and it has high expectations for “Lost,” which bows this summer.

C4, which confirmed an October launch for its latest channel, More4, is seeking a public subsidy in the coming years because it claims the present business model is unsustainable in an all-digital future.

A slowdown in consumer spending could herald a downturn in ad revenue for C4. “I’ve never known a market to rise so quickly and to fall so quickly,” said sales chief Andy Barnes. “The second half of the year is looking pretty gloomy, but we experienced 15% growth in the first quarter.”