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Channel 4 To Merge Several Commissioning Departments & Leave London Horseferry Road Premises As It Sets Out Layoffs Plan

Channel 4 is merging several commissioning departments including TV drama and film and leaving its Horseferry Road premises as the network sets out its layoffs plan and five-year strategy.

The network has unveiled a Fast Forward blueprint to suppliers, staff and press in the past few minutes. There will be a “substantial” number of layoffs in commissioning, according to content boss Ian Katz, with several mergers incoming.

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Caroline Hollick’s TV drama department is coming together with new Film4 boss Ollie Madden’s team. Meanwhile, documentaries and factual entertainment, which make the likes of 24 Hours in Custody and Gogglebox, are coming together, as are entertainment and reality – commissioners of Married at First Sight and The Last Leg. Portfolio channel E4 is also restructuring, with commissions at E4 going through relevant genres and digital reporting straight to Katz.

“We know that this is also a very difficult time for the indie sector and we have carefully considered the feedback we’ve heard from suppliers in shaping our plans,” Katz told suppliers, in a note seen by Deadline. “It will take some time to make these changes – and your key contacts may be affected – so please bear with us.”

CEO Alex Mahon said the move will “make it simpler for suppliers and more focused on content that drives streaming.” Director of Content Strategy & Planning Kiran Nataraja has taken on an enlarged role as Director of Streaming and Content Strategy, with editorial responsibility for streaming service Channel 4.

Commissioning layoffs had been anticipated as part of the restructure, which is seeing around 200 laid off and the closure of around 40 unfilled roles – an overall reduction of approximately 18% of overall staff, back to 2021 levels. Heads of Department were told last week, we understand.

Horseferry exit

Channel 4 also announced it will be leaving its 30-year-old Horseferry Road premises 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,” its note said.

The Horseferry exit forms part of a three-pronged strategy that has been dubbed Fast Forward by CEO Alex Mahon, who has spoken to staff in the past few minutes and sets out other aims to build towards 2030.

Mahon’s strategy has three pillars: digital growth and transformation, diversifying new business and “reengineering the business for a digital-first world.”

The latter includes “proposing to close 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.”

Other parts of the strategy include a focus on “fewer, stronger new titles that generate scale and impact” and investment in “growth businesses to rapidly scale diversified revenue streams.” Channel 4 will also explore potential new IP via Channel 4 Productions, which has been given the greenlight by the UK government’s Media Bill and will allow it to own IP for the first time in its 40-year history.

Tough times

The move represents Channel 4’s biggest round of layoffs in 15 years and has been anticipated since The Guardian first reported on the plans earlier this month.

Channel 4 is making the cuts – the deepest since the 2008 global financial meltdown – in response to a floundering ad market that shows little sign of improving.

Over the past few months, producers have criticized Channel 4 for passing pain on to them, cutting commissioning across the board and asking suppliers to finance productions. They also questioned certain spending decisions such as big entertainment bets on the Traitors-esque Rise and Fall, and splashy football rights. Yesterday, it was revealed that Rise and Fall has been canceled after months of industry speculation.

Speaking to Deadline recently, producers cautiously welcomed the plan as proof that the network was taking its financial strife seriously and may now return to some semblance of commissioning normality. Mahon has also said the network will likely draw down on its £75M ($95M) revolving credit facility in 2024 as it enters “market shock territory.”

“While getting ourselves into the right shape for the future is without doubt the right action to take, it does involve making difficult decisions,” Mahon said today. “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.”

Channel 4 revenues were down 2% to £1.14B in 2022, with a surplus of £20M, but 2023 looks set to be a much tougher 12 months and the company is expected to post a deficit when these results report.

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