Channel 4 sees group revenues fall 8.5%

But Digital channels help it achieve modest profit

LONDON -- Channel 4 said Wednesday that group revenues fell by 8.5% to £833 million ($1.2 million) in 2009, driven by a significant softening in the U.K. advertising market last year that hit its main channel hard.

But the broadcaster behind such hit shows as "Big Brother," and "Skins," reported operating profit up marginally at £4 million ($6 million) compared to losses of £500,000 ($746,000) in the previous financial year.

Revenues at the core channel decreased by £94 million ($140 million) to £575 million ($858 million) and the network posted an overall operating loss of £60 million ($90 million) more than double its losses in 2008.

Channel 4's digital channel business, which includes such brands as E4, More4 and FilmFour, managed to claw back some of the losses, however, delivering revenues up 8% at £181 million ($270 million) and overall operating profits of £54 million ($81 million).

During the year the broadcast group cut its headcount by 23% to 696 and cut its program budget by 8% to £548 million ($819 million).

Year-on-year operational costs overall were down by 8% to £779 million ($1.2 billion).

Channel 4 chief executive David Abraham used the presentation to reiterate his view that Channel 4 would not engage in merger talks with commercial rival Five, and said there were no current talks with BBC Worldwide, although the two could possibly collaborate in some areas.

Abraham's predecessor Andy Duncan spent over a year discussing possible strategic tie-ups between Channel 4 and the BBC's commercial division -- both owned by the government.

"It's a credit to everyone working here that Channel 4 has come through such a sharp downturn with our share of advertising revenues and ratings and our cash reserves intact and that we've continued to deliver creative excellence despite having significantly less money to spend on content," Abraham said.