Channel 4 to launch AVoD service as part of international expansion plans | News

Public broadcaster Channel 4 in the UK is eyeing the launch of its own advertising-funded international streaming service as part of its plans to become a global publisher-broadcaster.

Alex Mahon

C4 is already behind international subscription-based streaming service Walter Presents, which it set up as a joint-venture with London-based Global Series Network, and it has launched the service in markets including the US, Italy and Australia.

Alex Mahon, C4’s chief executive, yesterday said the company is now looking for more ways to grow its own brand outside of the UK with the addition of a C4 AVoD service that could mirror All4, its existing platform in the UK.

Meanwhile, C4’s top execs continue to make the argument against proposals by the UK government to privatise the company. This has seen the likes of US media giant Discovery, Comcast-owned Sky and fellow UK broadcaster ITV mooted as potential buyers.

Speaking during a virtual presentation during the official opening of its new headquarters in Leeds in the north of England, Mahon added that C4 would be “partnering hand-in-hand with producers” on the new service.

C4 has emphasised that the service would be launched “within the framework of respecting producers’ secondary rights.”

The current terms of trade agreed by C4 and the UK’s independent production sector give producers full control and ownership of the secondary revenue generated by the IP they create. They also retain all net receipts from international exploitation and from exploitation in the UK after the expiry of the C4 licence term.

“The Channel 4 brand commands huge creative respect internationally – whether it is through the global formats that we help create, the strength of our international news, or the success of Film4,” said Mahon, who later declined to discuss potential launch territories for the new streamer or the timeline for its arrival.

“We think that we have the opportunity to preserve what makes us British and distinctive whilst building our business even more outside the UK, find more ways to support and incentivise global growth for production partners while extending Channel 4’s reach, growing our revenue streams and projecting British culture and values abroad. A more expansive Channel 4 can doubtless benefit both the UK creative economy and the nation,” Mahon said.

Jonathan Allen, C4’s chief operating officer, added during a Q&A following the presentation that the service is still “in the early stages of development, so we don’t have a formal business plan ready to be signed off by the board,” but that it will be “engaging with producers to make sure it also works for them.”

“C4 being distributed globally could be good for our business but also exports of British IP and could help format sales. We think there’s a good opportunity to create a win-win situation,” said Allen.

C4 has also pledged to double the spend of its Global Format Fund, which is designed to help indies create new formats with global potential. It previously ring-fenced £30m (US$42m) of incremental content spend for the fund to be distributed in 2021 and 2022.

In addition, Mahon again expressed strong opposition to the privatisation plans, which have been roundly criticised by the UK television industry.

Mahon said: “We have not seen any evidence that the irreversible change of privatising Channel 4 will be in the interests of either British audiences or the UK’s economy. It could well have serious and long-lasting consequences for our world-leading television production sector and for the progress that has been made in our creative industries outside of London – plainly speaking, jobs, investment and providing the skills, training and opportunities for young people in the creative industries up and down the UK.”