UK’s Channel 4 defends CEO’s record pay deal & sets September to detail new content needs

Married At First Sight Australia

Channel 4 in the UK handed its CEO Alex Mahon a record-breaking pay deal last year, despite the broadcaster pulling back content spending against a “challenging” economic landscape.

The public broadcaster, which is ad funded, confirmed in its annual financial report released yesterday that former Shine CEO Mahon had been awarded just under £1.5m in 2022.

That included a £155,000 bonus payment, that has since been deferred, but the base salary of £1.34m remains an uptick on the £1.2m secured in 2021 and the £991,000 paid in 2020.

The 2022 bonus payments had been awarded after the broadcaster avoided privatisation, but were deferred by Mahon and other senior execs including content chief Ian Katz, whose total 2022 pay stood at £845,000.

‘Cyclical advertising downturn’

Details of the exec payments were revealed in a C4 report that also confirmed total revenue in 2022 of £1.14bn, with the 2% decline on 2021 blamed on “a significantly more challenging consumer environment”.

Alex Mahon (credit: RTS/Richard Kendal)

The broadcaster, which said that the ad downturn had “continued into this year”, has been tightening its commissioning belt over the past six months with current affairs shows and content for strands such as 4.0 and Untold among the few types of programming required.

However, Katz added that new programming requirements would be revealed in September, as the broadcaster looks ahead to 2024.

The report also revealed that C4 spent an “all-time record” £713m on British content in 2022, with £570m original programming. Shows such as Derry Girls, Somewhere Boy, Gogglebox and The Great British Bake Off were picked out.

Acquisitions were also talked up, with Married At First Sight Australia a key performer, according to Katz, who added that scripted remakes such as Before We Die offered cost-effective solutions.

The broadcaster’s shift to digital viewing was also noted as a positive, with 1.4 billion total streaming views, although that was down on the 1.5 billion views secured down the lockdown-induced viewing period.

Digital revenues increased 14% YoY to £255m, accounting for 22% of total revenues, while two-thirds of all new programmes were made outside of London – known as Nations & Regions.

Young audience focus

Releasing the report, Ian Cheshire, chair of C4, defended the exec pay-outs and talked up the broadcaster’s future.

“Last year as we emerged from the pandemic, Channel 4 faced unprecedented challenges: privatisation, political instability and macroeconomic turbulence continuing into this year.

“Channel 4’s exceptional team has steered the organisation to the benefit of British viewers and the creative industries,” he said, adding that the digital focus and a “uniquely strong brand” meant it remains “very well-positioned”.

The comments from Cheshire, who also called on government “help to address prominence” among young audiences, were echoed by Mahon.

“With Channel 4’s financial sustainability and ownership status no longer in question, we are doubling down on what we were created for: to deliver the best and broadest range of programmes that truly reflect British lives; to engage young people with genuinely public service content; and to prioritise digital growth to be where the audience is,” she said.

“As the industry sees through this cyclical advertising downturn, Channel 4 will be at the forefront, creatively more relevant, vibrant and distinctive than ever, especially for young audiences. We will continue to innovate, embrace change and adapt to the challenges of the future.”

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