10 January 2023

Now that the sale of Channel 4 is off, what does that mean for its property strategy? – Owen Spencer speaks for React News

Commercial Real Estate Senior Associate and member of our Film & TV Studios Group, Owen Spencer, has written for React News on the ongoing ownership saga surrounding Channel 4, and how staying in public ownership – in addition the departure from its role as “publisher-broadcaster” – may result in greater investment in regional production facilities.

In an unexpected change to the Media Bill Channel 4 will for the first time be able to make and own original content itself. “This is a key plank in the strategy to move the broadcaster away from its resilience on advertising revenue: by allowing it to monetise its content.”

With the specifics of these new freedoms yet to be finalised, Channel 4 will be keen to understand this new remit as any money spent on Channel 4 original content instead of on independently produced content “is a conflict of interest that will need to be managed.”

The broadcaster is also to double its regional headcount from 300 to 600 by 2025. While some of these jobs will be based at existing sites, reference to jobs being created ’potentially elsewhere’ will catch the eye of the property agents.

Any plan to employ staff at new regional sites is in line with the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda, however the government may be missing a trick when it comes to growing the regional studios sector, since the broadcaster’s regional programme-making quota remains unchanged.

“If there are 300 extra jobs going North, does this mean a corresponding reduction in the numbers employed in its recently refitted London office?”

If this is the case, alongside a new statutory duty on the corporation’s board for financial sustainability, the potential sale of its London office – a £100m asset – will be an option. Such a shift would give Channel 4 the chance to become a “national champion” by helping catalyse the dispersal of skilled crews around the country.

This article was originally published by React News on 9 January 2023 and is available here in full (behind their paywall).

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