U.K.'s Channel 4 Cuts Exec Pay, Slashes Content Budget by $185M Amid Virus Crisis

Channel 4 headquarters London - H 2017
Courtesy of Channel 4

The U.K. broadcaster — which is entirely commercially funded — says that U.K. advertising revenue was set to be down more than 50 percent in the coming months.

U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 has unveiled a raft of budget-cutting measures to deal with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

Among the measure are an immediate 20 percent pay cut voluntarily taken by all executive and non-executive board members, alongside the suspension of the 2020 bonus scheme for executive directors.

The company — which is publicly owned and entirely commercially funded — also said Wednesday that it expects to reduce its 2020 content budget by £150 million ($185 million), while finding a further £95 million ($118 million) of savings through a review of planned projects and investments, including a reduction of marketing budgets. 

Alongside a recruitment freeze for "all but business critical roles," Channel 4 has said it will participate in the U.K. government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which provides 80 percent of the salary of furloughed staff, with discussions now opening on furloughing around 10 percent of its workforce.

The moves were made, it said, with the TV ad market in the U.K. set to be down in excess of 50 percent over April and May.

"As a commercially funded business the COVID-19 outbreak has had a severe impact on our advertising revenues, and so we are taking action now to manage our costs appropriately and ensure that we both protect our staff and our ongoing ability to serve our audience," said Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon.

"We know that these are exceptionally challenging times for everyone in the U.K., particularly many of the producers, talent and freelancers we work with across the television and creative industries, and we are committed to safeguarding our long-term ability to invest in distinctive and challenging content and create jobs and opportunities in the sector across the U.K."

Channel 4 becomes the latest media and entertainment company to unveil such measures amid the pandemic. 

It was the latest entertainment industry company to discuss on the fallout from the virus crisis.

On March 23, U.K. TV giant ITV said it would pull its dividend and make other cost savings, including in program spending, amid the coronavirus pandemic, which it said has had an "increasing" impact on its advertising revenue. It said the moves would help boost its cash reserves by more than 300 million pounds ($350 million). It later also announced that its top executives were voluntarily taking compensation cuts.

Among U.S. companies, ViacomCBS, led by CEO Bob Bakish, said on March 27 that the new coronavirus pandemic could have a "material" impact on its results, withdrew its 2020 financial guidance and said it was planning unspecified "cost-savings initiatives" to offset some of the expected revenue losses. 

On March 24, cable giant and NBCUniversal and Sky owner said that the coronavirus pandemic could have a "material adverse impact" on its financials, but said it was difficult to quantify it at this stage.