U.K.’s Channel 4 to Cut Workforce by 18 Percent, Become “Digital-First Public Service Streamer”

U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 on Monday unveiled a five-year strategy to reshape itself and “accelerate its transformation into an agile, genuinely digital-first public service streamer by 2030.”

Proposing to reduce headcount by 18 percent — including around 200 layoffs and the closure of approximately 40 unfilled roles, it said that “around 70 percent of roles closed would be out of legacy operations.” It added: “This would return head count close to 2021 levels, but with the organization in the right shape to deliver further digital growth and lead public service media into the future.”

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Other plans include “moving out of Channel 4’s London base in the next few years, with 600 roles based outside of London by the end of 2025, lower head count in London overall, and a shift to flexible working, including “a new fit-for-purpose office space in central London”; and “closing small linear channels that no longer deliver revenues or public value at scale, including the Box channels in 2024 and others at the right time.”

The strategy — called “Fast Forward” — is designed to get it into “the right shape for the 2030s,” protect its long-term sustainability and “ensure Channel 4 embraces the generational shift that is taking place in TV viewing, to elevate its impact across the U.K. and stand out in a world of global entertainment conglomerates and social media giants,” the broadcaster vowed.

The broadcaster wants to focus its investment on “distinctive, streaming-friendly British content and social media,” while growing “diversified revenue streams,” and “reengineering the business to become leaner, simpler and nimbler” to support digital priorities.

Channel 4 described its position in the U.K. media landscape this way on Monday: “It is now leading its peers, with digital revenues accounting for 27 percent of total revenues last year — compared to around 10 percent amongst other commercial broadcasters in the U.K. and abroad.” Channel 4’s target is to increase this to 30 percent in 2024 and pass the 50 percent mark by 2030. “It has also successfully expanded non-advertising revenue to represent 10 percent of total revenues and, in streaming, viewing time grew by 24 percent in 2023,” it highlighted.

“Channel 4 was designed to be ahead of the curve and has never stood still,” said CEO Alex Mahon. “The rate of change in our market is only speeding up. Our new strategy will accelerate our digital transformation — building on 2020’s Future4 strategy and our founding public service principles — so Channel 4 remains a trusted, disruptive and distinctive brand into the 2030s, offering brilliant shows that people love and that matter.

She added: “We are genuinely excited about the future. Channel 4 means something to British people — we are trusted. We are a beacon for quality. We stand out for fresh and exciting ideas that matter and will be even more important in a crowded landscape of global content.”

While she highlighted the need to make “difficult decisions,” saying she was “very sad that some of our excellent colleagues will lose their jobs because of the changes ahead,” Mahon concluded: “The reality of the rapid downshift in the U.K. economy and advertising market demand that we must change structurally. As we shift our center of gravity from linear to digital, our proposals will focus [on] cost reductions on legacy activity.”

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