Coronavirus: Channel 4 forecasts 40% advertising slump

London, UK - Pedestrians on the street in front of the headquarters building of the UK television broadcaster Channel 4, located in Westminster. Photo: Getty

Channel 4 advertising sales are forecast to drop 40% in the second quarter of 2020 as coronavirus decimates the travel industry.

But channel boss Alex Mahon has told The Sunday Telegraph the broadcaster will not be seeking a government bailout.

The company was forced to make deep cuts in early April after the UK went into lockdown. The programme budget was slashed by £150m ($190m) and a further £95m was cut from other parts of the business. Around one in 10 staff were furloughed and the channel drew down £75m in bank lending.

Chief executive Mahon took a 20% pay cut from her half a million salary and the executive bonus scheme, worth £256,000 ($202,000) to her in 2018, is currently suspended.

The broadcaster is now expecting advertising sales to be down 40% for the second quarter of the year whilst industry forecasts claim the year will be down 20%.

"The core question for us is will we have a good Christmas or not," Mahon told The Sunday Telegraph.

"It's all to do with retail opening up and I'll doubt we'll get to minus 20. But we're not going to be as bad as Q2, unless there's a second lockdown. So that's the range, somewhere between 20 and 40."

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Advertisers are returning to the channel which has heavily discounted its products but the continued shutdown of the travel sector is still having a huge financial impact on sales.

"Every week our revenue forecast for the next month ticks up a few percent. So that's good. The issue really is how confident do consumers feel," added Mahon.

Although the company is publicly owned almost all its £1bn income comes from commercial sources, meaning it is mostly dependent on advertising.

But despite losing a significant chunk of income, Mahon said the company would not be asking for government support.

"That's not going to happen," she confirmed.

Former Channel 4 chairman Luke Johnson made a failed attempt for a £100m bailout during the last recession.