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C4 reports record year, but future remains unclear

Channel 4 reported record revenues of £979 million (US$1.4 billion) last year, an increased audience share for its main channel and spent more money on content than ever before.

David AbrahamUnveiling Channel 4’s 2015 annual report, CEO David Abraham (pictured) said that the UK broadcaster had delivered on its public service remit, at a time when the its future ownership structure hangs in the balance.

“Channel 4 had a record impact on audiences and the UK’s creative sector in 2015 with our investment in original content, our commercial revenues and, critically, the delivery of our public service remit, all at their highest ever levels,” said Abraham.

“We expect this impact and growth to continue in 2016 and, as a wide range of independent experts have concluded, our focus on both creative and commercial innovation has positioned us very strongly for the future.”

Channel 4 said it spent a record £629 million on content last year, of which a new high of £455 million was allocated to originally commissioned TV, film and digital content through partnerships with production companies across the UK.

With the success of new programmes like Humans, No Offence, Hunted, SAS: Who Dares Wins, Channel 4 said that viewing share at its flagship channel was up 1% overall and up 8% during peak hours of 7 to 11pm. The channel’s share of 16-34 viewers was up by 2% in all-time and 7% in peak.

Revenues were up 4.4% from £938 million in 2014, which Channel 4 attributed to strong advertising sales performance, ad market growth and growth in digital revenues.

“As is publicly known, the government has stated it is reviewing options for the organisation’s future ownership and as I write we await further news from that process. In the meantime it is my responsibility as chair to ensure the board retains full focus on the fulfilment of Channel 4’s statutory functions,” said Channel 4 chair Charles Gurassa in a statement included in the annual report.

The news came as The Telegraph reported that the UK government will not seek to fully privatise Channel 4 – an idea previously touted as an option. However, it may seek to sell off a minority stake to a strategic partner and open Channel 4’s accounts to National Audit Office scrutiny.

The government will reportedly finalise its plans for Channel 4 later this year, after its plans for the BBC have been completed. A white paper on planned BBC reforms is due to be published this week.

In related news, Channel 4 owned E4 has co-commissioned a second drama with Netflix, despite bad blood over dark drama Black MIrror, which C4 had originally ordered only to be beaten to the latest season by the SVOD platform.

Crazy Face is a drama about a trio of demon hunters from Misfits creator Howard Overman. Urban Myth Films is attached to produce.

Channel 4 has also announced it is bringing back irreverant adult humour format Eurotrash.