UK ministers are exploring a sale of Channel 4 amid a surge in dealmaking in the entertainment industry, the Times newspaper reported Tuesday citing unnamed sources.
The government has begun sounding out investment banks to advise on a deal, the report stated, adding that Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden was open minded on how any deal would be structured. Options include a trade sale or stock market listing.
Channel 4 has been placed on a list of assets that could be offloaded as the Treasury seeks to repair the country’s Covid-scarred finances. Discussions were reportedly at an early stage but suggest the government-owned broadcaster could be placed on the auction block sooner than industry insiders had expected.
Dowden last month said a privatisation of the company was “on the table” as part of an official review of public service broadcasting. He said that the government would “not rule out” selling Channel 4 by 2024, when its current licence will need to be renewed.
Amazon last week bought the Hollywood studio Metro Goldwyn Mayer for $8.45bn. The acquisition came a week after AT&T, the American telecoms giant, merged its TV and movie empire Warner Media with the smaller rival Discovery to gain greater scale.
In 2016, when the government last considered privatising Channel 4, it received a tentative £1bn bid, rumoured to be from Discovery. Since then the value of free-to-air broadcasters has fallen because of the rise of streaming apps and the migration of advertising spending to online media.