Channel 4 today unveiled an ambitious five-year strategy to reshape the organisation and accelerate its transformation into an agile, genuinely digital-first public service streamer by 2030.
The strategy – called Fast Forward – will ensure Channel 4 embraces the generational shift that is taking place in TV viewing, to elevate its impact across the UK and stand out in a world of global entertainment conglomerates and social media giants.
Fast Forward is designed to get Channel 4 into the right shape for the 2030s and protect its long-term sustainability: focusing investment in distinctive, streaming-friendly British content and social media; growing diversified revenue streams; and reengineering the business to become leaner, simpler and nimbler, divesting from legacy operations to support digital priorities.
In 2020, Channel 4 launched its Future4 strategy to shift its focus from traditional broadcasting to digital. It is now leading its peers, with digital revenues accounting for 27% of total revenues last year – compared to around 10% amongst other commercial broadcasters in the UK and abroad. Channel 4 aims to increase this to 30% in 2024 and pass the tipping point of 50% by 2030. It has also successfully expanded non-advertising revenue to represent 10% of total revenues and, in streaming, viewing time grew by 24% in 2023.
The Fast Forward strategy will build on this momentum and support Channel 4 into the 2030s, ensuring it reaches and inspires new generations of viewers, delivers its public service remit, and sustains its long-term future as a relevant and rebellious force in British creative and cultural life.
Alex Mahon, CEO, 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 organisation.”
Fast Forward has three strategic pillars:
- Digital growth and transformation
Fast Forward will see Channel 4 seize the opportunity to deliver important, distinctive and disruptive British content to audiences across streaming and social. This includes:
- Accelerating the move to a digital-first commissioning strategy with a significant shift in investment to the types of programming that drive streaming growth like drama, high-end documentaries, comedy and reality – and remit delivery, while targeting younger viewers on platforms including YouTube
- Proposing changes to how Channel 4’s Commissioning team is organised to make it simpler for suppliers and more focused on content that drives streaming
- Ruthless focus on cut-through with fewer, stronger new titles that generate more scale and impact, underscoring Channel 4’s commitment to being the home of new talent and ideas
- Doubling social views through 4Studio, our digital content and social powerhouse, and increasing the amount of content on YouTube
- Transforming Channel 4’s streaming platform through outsourced technology that delivers a step-change in the user experience for viewers and advertisers
- Building new distribution partnerships to enhance visibility of Channel 4 video
- Diversified new businesses
Channel 4 will invest in growth businesses to rapidly scale diversified revenue streams. This will contribute to our long-term sustainability and impact with viewers. This includes:
- Exploring the potential of intellectual property ownership for Channel 4, including the potential to own shows within the framework being proposed in the Media Bill
- Doubling the number of members of Channel 4+, the ad-free tier, by 2030
- Building a double-digit million ecommerce business by 2030 to allow viewers to interact and purchase products through digital platforms
- Leveraging FAST channels to give viewers access to more of their favourite content online
- Reengineering the business for a digital-first world
To stay competitive and invest in digital priorities, Channel 4 will reduce its operational costs, particularly out of legacy activities. This will simplify its operations to become leaner, nimbler and more sustainable for the long term. This includes:
- Proposing to reduce headcount by 18% – around 200 redundancies and the closure of approximately 40 unfilled roles. Around 70% of roles closed would be out of legacy operations. This would return headcount close to 2021 levels, but with the organisation in the right shape to deliver further digital growth and lead public service media into the future
- Moving out of Channel 4’s London base 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
- 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
Channel 4 remains committed to its existing target of 600 roles across the Nations and Regions by 2025.
Channel 4 is fully committed to harnessing the power of its regional structure to grow its impact across the UK, boosting investment and job opportunities in the Nations and Regions. It will continue to champion Britain’s world-leading independent TV and film production, nurturing the very best ideas from across the UK and supporting those who aspire to a career in the creative industries.
Notes to Editors
Any enquiries relating to Channel 4’s London premises on Horseferry Road should contact: 124HorseferryRoad@Channel4.co.uk
About Channel 4
Channel 4 exists to create change through entertainment. Publicly owned yet commercially funded, Channel 4 generates significant and sustainable cultural, economic and social impact across the UK – at no cost to the taxpayer.
The broadcaster’s distinctive remit is set by Parliament, and it has a role to represent unheard voices, challenge with purpose and reinvent entertainment. For over 40 years, it has been a British success story, engaging generation after generation of young people.
Through a unique publisher-broadcaster model, Channel 4 commissions its content from the UK independent production sector. Working with around 300 creative companies every year, Channel 4 makes a major contribution to the local, regional and national economy, creating and supporting thousands of jobs and businesses across the country.
In 2020, Channel 4 launched its Future4 strategy to become a digital-first public service media company and to continue to deliver significant impact for UK audiences and investment into the UK creative economy.
Across its bases in London, Leeds, Manchester, Bristol and Glasgow, Channel 4 is turbocharging its efforts to find, nurture and develop talent across the UK. Through its training and development initiative 4Skills, Channel 4 is opening up opportunities in broadcasting, with a particular focus on disadvantaged young people, and addressing skills gaps across the Nations and Regions.