Channel 4 achieved a record £1.2 billion ($1.41 billion) in revenues in 2021, up 25% from £934 million in 2020, the U.K. broadcaster’s annual report reveals. Channel 4 also recorded a pre-tax surplus of £101 million, up from £74 million in 2020.
The broadcaster significantly increased its content spend to £671 million in 2021, up from £522 million in 2020. Of this, £492 million (2020: £370 million) was on originated content, including shows like “It’s A Sin,” the Black to Front initiative and Paralympics coverage. Cash reserves rose from £201 million in 2020 to £272 million in 2021, while net assets soared from £452 million in 2020 to £566 million in 2021.
Digital advertising revenue increased by 40% from 2020’s £161 million to £224 million in 2021 and now makes up 19% of Channel 4’s total revenues, up from 17% last year and on target to reach 30% of revenues by 2025, as stated in the broadcaster’s Future4 digital strategy.
Views on Channel 4’s All4, the largest free digital streaming service in the U.K., grew 21% to 1.5 billion and accounted for 13% of total viewing. Channel 4 also recorded a 3% viewing share growth on its main channel. Meanwhile, viewing share among ethnically diverse audiences climbed to 5.4% — its highest annual share of the segment since 2012.
The annual report also addresses the U.K. government’s plans to privatize Channel 4. “The proposal to privatize Channel 4 will require a lengthy legislative process and political debate, and inevitably has implications in terms of risks and opportunities for the organization,” the broadcaster’s chair Ian Cheshire said in a statement.
“We will continue to engage constructively with DCMS [Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport], government and parliament, whilst maintaining our focus on the delivery of our remit, to ensure Channel 4 carries on making its unique contribution to Britain’s creative ecology and national life.”
In its strategic and financial outlook for 2022, the report builds in the risks that could arise from privatization and how the potential financial impacts of the process may affect the broadcaster’s viability. “The decision to privatize will inevitably have an impact on the organization; existing risks may be amplified or new risks may emerge, all of which must be managed as we continue to deliver on our remit,” CEO Alex Mahon said in a statement.
The annual report, prepared in May, was delayed because it had to be cleared by the DCMS. “It is fair to say the DCMS made some comments that they would have preferred to see in the report, particularly about our future financial sustainability,” Mahon said last week while answering questions from a DCMS select committee of members of parliament regarding privatization. “Really, the questions were about whether our wording was in line with government policy.”
A DCMS spokesperson said at the time: “As the owner of Channel 4, the government is fully entitled to comment on the contents of its annual report. During the normal process of discussion we highlighted that some language in the report could be interpreted as going against the corporation’s commitment, given to both officials and ministers, to refrain from campaigning against privatization. It is the government’s job to take a long-term view on how to best secure the most successful future for Channel 4 in a rapidly changing media landscape and we believe private ownership will give the broadcaster the tools to innovate and grow at pace.”
The annual report is the one approved by the Channel 4 board and has been presented to U.K. parliament without any changes.