U.K. public service broadcaster Channel 4 has confirmed the 200 layoffs that were being planned earlier this month.
The broadcaster is proposing to reduce headcount by 18% – around 200 redundancies – and the closure of some 40 unfilled roles. The layoffs are amid a continuous decline in TV advertising. The cost cutting also includes moving out of Channel 4’s central London base on Horseferry Road “in the next few years.” “With 600 roles based outside of London by the end of 2025, lower headcount in London overall, and a shift to flexible working, Channel 4 will find a new fit-for-purpose office space in central London,” the broadcaster said. In addition, Channel 4 is proposing to close small linear channels that “no longer deliver revenues or public value at scale.”
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Channel 4 has also unveiled a five-year strategy called Fast Forward to “reshape the organization and accelerate its transformation into an agile, genuinely digital-first public service streamer by 2030,” the broadcaster said. Channel 4’s digital revenues accounted for 27% of total revenues in 2023 and it aims to increase this to 30% in 2024 and pass 50% by 2030.
The Fast Forward strategy includes a shift in investment to the types of programming that drive streaming growth like drama, high-end documentaries, comedy and reality, while targeting younger viewers on platforms including YouTube. This programming will have a “ruthless focus on cut-through” with fewer, stronger new titles that generate more scale and impact, the broadcaster said, adding that the aim is to doubling the number of members of Channel 4+, its ad-free tier, by 2030. There are also aims to double social views through digital content and social arm 4Studio; increasing the amount of content on YouTube; and building new distribution partnerships to enhance visibility of Channel 4 video.
Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon said: “Channel 4 was designed to be ahead of the curve and has never stood still. 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.
“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 getting ourselves into the right shape for the future is without doubt the right action to take, it does involve making difficult decisions. I am very sad that some of our excellent colleagues will lose their jobs because of the changes ahead. But the reality of the rapid downshift in the UK economy and advertising market demand that we must change structurally. As we shift our centre of gravity from linear to digital our proposals will focus cost reductions on legacy activity. In preparing for a new digital-first future, I hope we can make Channel 4 simpler – for staff and our suppliers – and create a more efficient, inclusive and high performing organization.”
Responding to the layoffs, head of U.K. media and entertainment union Bectu, Philippa Childs, said: “Today’s announcement and the associated job losses will be devastating for Channel 4 employees and we will do everything we can to support our members affected by these cuts.
“These changes are unfortunately symptomatic of the challenging environment much of the UK’s film and TV sector is operating in, including a marked advertising downturn and cost inflation in the industry – the impacts of which fall heavily on the workforce.
“Bectu members know only too well how incredibly tough the last year has been for the industry’s workforce, including freelancers, many of whom are particularly hard hit by commissioning challenges. Throughout the myriad challenges facing the sector, it’s critical that broadcasters are upfront and transparent with staff and freelancers and ensure that changes are communicated as soon as possible.
“Channel 4 must understandably meet the challenges of a changing media landscape; we will continue to fully engage with them to ensure the public service broadcaster is positioned strongly for the future and can continue to deliver on its unique remit, while providing security for its workforce – who are critical to its future success.”
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