Channel 4 Planning To Lay Off Up To 200 Staff

Channel 4 is compiling a plan to enact its biggest round of layoffs in more than 15 years, with up to 200 staff potentially in line to be let go. The figure would represent around 17% of the network’s overall headcount.

According to The Guardian, which broke the news, Channel 4 head honchos have been working on the plan since late last year, with a view to doubling down on digital streaming while acknowledging linear difficulties and trying to keep its circa-£700M ($887M) content budget steady as it battles against economic forces.

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“Like every organisation, we are having to deal with an extremely uncertain economy in the short term and the need to accelerate our transformation to become a wholly digital public service broadcaster in the long term,” a spokeswoman said. “As a result, we need to continue to divest from our linear channels business and simplify our operations to become a leaner organisation.”

The spokeswoman added that the plan will “enable us to invest more in our digital future and in our remit to make distinctive and disruptive British content, increasingly focused on streaming and social channels,” adding: “Whilst organisational change is never without personal impact, it is a necessary response to allow us to stand out and succeed in a world of global entertainment conglomerates and social media giants.”

Channel 4 will “share further details with our staff, partners and stakeholders soon,” according to the spokeswoman.

The news comes a few weeks after CEO Alex Mahon told a government committee that the industry is in “market shock territory” due to the worse-than-expected ad recession. In a marked change of position, she also said she “imagines” Channel 4 will draw down on its £75M revolving credit facility in 2024. She and Chair Ian Cheshire are also starting a strategic review into Channel 4’s longer term future over the coming weeks.

Channel 4 revenues in 2022 were down 2% on the prior year but 2023 looks set to be a much tougher 12 months and the channel is expected to post a deficit. Bosses have previously said the advertising recession has been worse than expected in the latter half of the year. Channel 4 spent £713M on programing in 2022, £570M of which was on original content. Both figures were at historic highs for the commercial broadcaster, which boasts hits including Gogglebox and The Great British Bake Off.

Deadline has reported in depth on Channel 4’s financial woes over the past few months, which kicked off with the high-profile cancelation of a reboot of reality series Four Weddings. Since then, shows have been canceled, dozens of producers have reported launches being delayed and a change in Channel 4’s decades-old payment terms, while Mahon and fellow bosses’ bonuses have been in the spotlight. The broadcaster recently turned 40 and completely relies on third-party producers to make its shows, although this is set to change with the incoming Media Bill.

Philippa Childs, the head of broadcasting union Bectu, said the cuts are “concerning” for staff and freelancers, “many of whom are still suffering from precarious employment following the impacts of the pandemic.”

“Bectu members know only too well how incredibly tough the last year has been for film and TV workers,” she added. “With 2024 looking like it will present plenty of challenges for the sector, we will continue to fully engage with the broadcaster as it sets out its strategic direction and future plans.”

New board members

News of the redundancies broke as five non-executive directors were appointed to Channel 4’s board, including the Warner Records MD who has worked with the likes of Dua Lipa.

Tom Adeyoola, Alex Burford, Sebastian James, Dame Annette King and Debbie Wosskow will each serve a three-year term on the network’s board.

Burford is the MD of Warner Records, James is the CEO of Boots and King is a PR guru who used to run Ogilvy UK.

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