Channel 4 makes record £1bn revenue in boost to anti-privatisation argument

Channel 4’s revenue has surpassed £1bn for the first time in its history - with a record pre-tax surplus of £101m and net assets of £566m.

The details included in the Leeds-based broadcaster’s annual report come as the organisation attempts to head off the Government’s planned sale of the publicly-owned organisation.

The company’s revenue also passed the £1 billion mark for the first time – hitting £1.16 billion, far above the previous £995 million record.

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The Government has argued that the long-term financial viability of the organisation is in doubt, meaning it should be sold off now. But the report states the results demonstrate the channel’s Future4 strategy to double views on its All4 streaming platform and increase digital advertising revenue is working.

Channel 4 chief executive Alex MahonChannel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon
Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon

The report states: “Another year of improvement to our balance sheet position opens up new opportunities for longer-term investment in the coming years as we build on our ambitious Future4 strategy, and only serves to underline Channel 4’s long-term sustainability, even through unprecedented times.”

It was revealed earlier this week that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport had sought changes to the wording of the annual report, which would have cast doubt on the future financial sustainability of Channel 4 to better make the case for privatisation. The request resulted in a delay to publication but was ultimately denied, meaning the report was published without the Government’s requested changes.

Chief executive Alex Mahon said in her opening statement for the report that the decision to privatise “will inevitably have an impact on the organisation” and that “existing risks may be amplified or new risks may emerge, all of which must be managed as we continue to deliver on our remit”.

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But she added: “Our job is to deliver what Parliament tasks us to do, and if or when that changes, I am confident that this incredible organisation will respond with the relentless energy it has always displayed in pursuit of its goals and the remit – making incredible shows for our audiences, creating opportunities for young people, and supporting the creative industries across the UK.”

The report reveals Ms Mahon received a salary of more than £1m last year.

It also showed that chief operating officer Jonathan Allan bagged a 5.5% pay rise, giving him £728,000, while chief content officer Ian Katz saw his package rise nearly 16% to £620,000.

The figures in the report also show that total pay for all Channel 4 employees dropped 4% during the year.

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The broadcaster said in a statement: “Channel 4 is wholly commercially-funded and not in receipt of any public funding.

“Executive salaries are benchmarked against and broadly comparable to other commercial broadcasters in the UK and the remuneration committee recommended the increase to recognise Alex Mahon’s leadership during a period of incredible creative and commercial success as well as significant uncertainty.

“In 2021, Channel 4 delivered a range of defining and award-winning programmes, the strongest-ever financial performance in its history, significant growth in digital advertising, record-breaking performance for All 4, and industry-leading investment in creating jobs and training opportunities for up to 15,000 young people every year.”

Views on All 4 – the company’s streaming service – were up 21% to 1.5 billion during the year.

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The broadcaster said it is now “well on our way” to meeting its target to double digital views between 2020 and 2025.

Digital advertising revenue grew 40% to £161 million and accounts for nearly £2 in every £10 than the business makes. The company wants to make £3 from digital for every £10 that it earns by the middle of the decade.

Channel 4 was founded by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher and is entirely funded by advertising.

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