Channel 4 to repay £1.5m in furlough cash after ad sales boost

Channel 4 bake off

Stronger than expected advertising revenue has boosted the coffers at Channel 4 so much that the broadcaster said it will repay its £1.5m furlough payment to the Government.

Additionally, the home of the Great British Bake Off has also made a £250k donation to the Film & TV Charity’s Covid-19 Recovery Fund to support the sector through an extremely tough period – which builds on a range of support Channel 4 has given to the industry during lockdown, including mentoring and training.

The moves come after the broadcaster published its annual report for 2019 today.

Channel 4 – ad revenue boosted

Channel 4 reported a 10% rise in overall revenue to £985m. The channel’s digital interests proved a huge draw too, with digital views on All 4 up 9% over 2019, helping to drive an +18% growth in digital revenues, to £163m.

Digital made up a record 9.5% of overall viewing and a record 17% of overall corporation revenue. A planned pre-tax deficit of £26m reflected the investment in opening new bases and digital transformation.

In March, as the impact of the pandemic took hold in the UK, and with the ad market down around -50%, Channel 4 put in place a swift and prudent financial plan – reducing the 2020 content budget by £150m; finding £95m in further organisational savings and drawing down on the organisation’s commercial revolving credit facility to give further liquidity if needed.

However, Channel 4 still continued to commission a range of reactive and responsive lockdown programmes to help reflect the experience of people living through the pandemic in the UK – including Grayson’s Art Club and Jamie’s Keep Cooking and Carry On; as well as a range of fast-turnaround current affairs and documentaries, which alongside Channel 4 News, helped keep viewers informed. 50% of the content investment was ring-fenced to support small, Nations & Regions and BAME-led independent producers.

Challenging year

Alex Mahon, Channel 4’s Chief Executive said: “2020 has undoubtedly been an incredibly challenging year, but Channel 4 is showing that we will emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.

Alex Mahon - Channel 4 - 2020_0
Commercial break: Channel 4 CEO Mahon said broadcaster is in a robust position thanks to ad revenue despite Covid.

“The pandemic has underlined the vital importance that public service broadcasters like Channel 4 play in supporting, informing, connecting and entertaining our nation’s audiences when they need us most. It has also highlighted the brilliance of the UK’s production sector who have not just kept our biggest shows on air but worked with tireless ingenuity to ensure we are serving our viewers with reactive and responsive content.

“We will end this year with a cash surplus and a robust financial position to protect against any further economic instability caused by Covid.

“We will also have a strong base from which to continue the next phase of our transformation, building on the success we have shown in 2019 and 2020 in growing our digital viewing and our digital revenues at pace.”