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Channel 4 Annual Report 2021: A Financial Record-Breaking Year

London, UK
Broadcaster well placed to deliver record £15m investment in training and development across the UK over three years

Today (Friday 15th July 2022), Channel 4 has published its Annual Report 2021, revealing a record-breaking year for the UK’s youth-focused, commercially-funded public service broadcaster.

Channel 4’s financial success in 2021 ensures that it is on track to deliver its Future4 strategy, transforming itself into a digital public service broadcaster that retains its distinctive brand and public service impact.

“2021 was an outstanding year of creative excellence, exceptional digital growth and record-breaking financial performance that saw Channel 4 over-deliver on its remit and successfully continue its transformation into a digital-first PSB,” commented Alex Mahon chief executive, Channel 4. “These results demonstrate that Channel 4’s business model delivers dynamic growth, revenue diversification and long-term sustainability. Financially, Channel 4 is in the most robust health it has ever been and our results have laid the foundations for ongoing investment, financial success and stability.”

Financial Performance

In 2021, Channel 4’s corporation revenues exceeded £1 billion for the first time, growing by 25% year-on-year to £1.2 billion. This is also a significant increase of 18% on 2019’s pre-pandemic revenues.

A pre-tax surplus of £101 million broke 2020’s previous record figure of £74 million, significantly increasing the organisation’s net cash reserves to £272 million and net assets to £556 million and providing Channel 4 with a platform for future strategic growth and long-term investment.

Nearly one-fifth (19%) of total corporation revenues came from digital advertising, an increase of +40% year on year, demonstrating that the broadcaster’s Future4 strategy is on track to hit its 30% digital advertising revenue target by 2025.

The success of the Future4 strategy was reinforced by All 4, which delivered a record +21% growth in streaming views to more than 1.5bn views in 2021. All 4 is the UK’s biggest free streaming service and delivered 13% of total Channel 4 viewing.

Record investment in British content

Channel 4 spent £671m on content in 2021. This is the broadcaster’s third-highest content spend ever and an increase on 2020 (+29%, 2020: £522m) and pre-pandemic levels.

£492m was spent on originated content (+33%, 2020: £370m) in total. 55% of main channel content was made in the Nations and Regions, Channel 4’s highest level ever and achieving its 50% target two years ahead of schedule.

By the end of 2021, Channel 4 had around 400 roles based outside of London, across its bases in Leeds, Glasgow, Bristol and Manchester, and this number is expected to grow further in 2022.

In 2022, Channel 4 will continue to reinvest in the delivery of its remit and supporting independent producers across the UK. Channel 4 is on track to spend over £700m in content, the highest level in its 40-year history.

4Skills: Creating opportunities and investing in the next generation of talent

In 2021, Channel 4 announced a major investment in its 4Skills programme. 4Skills, is a  Leeds-based training and development programme designed to open up opportunities in broadcasting and addressing skills gaps across the Nations and Regions, with a particular focus on disadvantaged young people.

From 2022, 4Skills will help over 15,000 young people every year – an investment worth £5m annually.

Representing the whole of the UK

From award-winning dramas such as It’s A Sin, through to the ground-breaking The Black To Front Project, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, the Leeds-based daytime show Steph’s Packed Lunch, or Nida Manzoor’s We Are Lady Parts, 2021 saw Channel 4 portray a wide range of voices from across the UK.

To ensure that Channel 4 authentically represents and reflects its audiences in the programmes that it commissions, Channel 4 made strong progress on equitable representation in 2021. 18% of its staff was ethnically diverse at the end of 2021, putting it on track to achieve its target of 20% by the end of 2022. Crucially, Channel 4 saw the proportion of its ethnically diverse leaders increase from 9% in 2017 to 17% in 2021.

Channel 4 is an anti-racist organisation that prides itself on an inclusive and diverse culture. The accurate and balanced representation of all types of diversity – disability, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and diversity of thought – was equally at the heart of its editorial output in 2021.

As well as the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, a major highlight of the year was Channel 4’s The Black To Front Project – a bold intervention that disrupted Channel 4’s entire programming schedule to showcase Black talent on and off screen. From Celebrity Gogglebox and Hollyoaks to Countdown and Love It or List It, Channel 4 put Black voices front and centre of its most popular programmes.

“Channel 4 is a vital national institution, and its remit is deeply embedded in everything we make, every day and on every platform,” continued Alex. “It is about showcasing things that people might not agree with and that challenge perceptions. It’s about celebrating the rich diversity not only of all our communities across the UK, but also their diversity of thought and opinion.”

Channel 4’s chair Sir Ian Cheshire concluded, “Our exceptional financial performance demonstrates Channel 4’s long-term sustainability and, through its Future4 strategy, it will play a major and unique role in strengthening and levelling up the creative industries and creating new jobs and opportunities for young people across the UK.”