Channel 4 cuts content budget by £150m in response to coronavirus crisis

Channel 4 plans to cut its content budget by £150 million in a bid to navigate through the coronavirus crisis, it has been announced.

The broadcaster said the television advertising market is set to be down in excess of 50% over April and May as the industry feels the impact of the global pandemic.

The channel added it has £95 million of further savings targeted across the organisation, and executive and non-executive board members will take voluntary 20% pay cut and suspend 2020 bonuses.

The savings will come through a full review of planned projects and investments, and a reduction in marketing budgets.

There will also be a full recruitment freeze for all but business critical roles and a review of all third-party costs – and the channel will begin discussions on furloughing around 10% of Channel 4 staff, whose roles are impacted by the current circumstances.

An announcement from the channel said: “We expect to reduce the 2020 content budget by £150 million.

“This reflects both the difficulties of producing programmes and films in the current environment, as well as some extremely difficult decisions to delay or cancel some content across Channel 4, E4 and More 4 across the year.”

It said it will continue to support the creative sector and commission and develop content for 2020 and 2021, and has ring-fenced funding productions from the nations and regions and from BAME-led independent producers.

Ian Katz, director of programmes, said the cuts will impact the whole portfolio, with a number of new shows on E4 also postponed or cancelled.

He added: “The coronavirus crisis has hit all commercial broadcasters with a double whammy of lost production and dramatically-reduced revenues, but it also poses a profound creative challenge which our indie partners have risen to with remarkable ingenuity, speed and resourcefulness.

“Despite the significant impact on our revenues, we believe it is of vital public interest that Channel 4 remains able to editorially respond to this unprecedented crisis so we will be continuing to commission shows that capture the impact of the pandemic on our society, address our viewers’ concerns and help them get through this difficult period.

Alex Mahon, CEO of Channel 4, said: “As a commercially-funded business, the Covid-19 outbreak has had a severe impact on our advertising revenues, and so we are taking action now to manage our costs appropriately and ensure that we both protect our staff and our ongoing ability to serve our audience.

“We know that these are exceptionally challenging times for everyone in the UK, particularly many of the producers, talent and freelancers we work with across the television and creative industries – and we are committed to safeguarding our long-term ability to invest in distinctive and challenging content and create jobs and opportunities in the sector across the UK.”

The channel has recently commissioned a range of programming in response to the coronavirus crisis, including pulling forward The Steph Show to go live each day, Grayson’s Art Club, Kirstie’s Crafting and Stay At Home, Dick & Angel’s Make, Do & Mend and Jamie: Keep Cooking And Carry On.

Last year, the channel also announced it has signed a new deal for one of its most high profile shows – The Great British Bake Off.

In March 2019, it confirmed a new two-series agreement with Love Productions for The Great British Bake Off, extending the creative partnership until 2021.

It was also recently announced that the broadcaster will move much of ts operation out of London to Leeds.

Around 300 jobs are moving outside the M25, but the broadcaster expects up to 90% of the north-bound roles will not be taken up by current staff.

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