Channel 4 is closing 5 channels on Freeview and Sky TV as it shifts focus to paid streaming app

an example of the channel 4 streaming app is pictured on a smartphone with the channel 4 logo in the background

Channel 4 wants to become a "digital-first" public service streamer in the next five years under ambitious new plans

Aaron Brown

By Aaron Brown

Published: 01/02/2024

- 05:10

Updated: 01/02/2024

- 16:43

More live channels owned by Channel 4 will vanish from the airwaves “at the right time”, it promises

  • Channel 4 has shared an ambitious new five-year strategy, called Fast Forward
  • It confirms plans to shutter 5 linear channels across Freeview, Sky and Virgin TV
  • Channel 4 wants to double paid subscribers to its streaming app by 2030
  • It will focus on digital with all future commissions
  • Shows could be distributed via free ad-supported platforms and YouTube

Channel 4 has announced major changes across its business, which it hopes will transform the business from a traditional broadcast company into a “digital-first public service streamer” to better compete with the likes of homegrown rivals like ITVX and US competitors, including Netflix.

Dubbed Fast Forward, the five-year plan will start with the closure of 4MUSIC, The Box, Kiss, Magic and Kerrang. These live channels will vanish from all platforms, including Freeview, Freesat, Sky TV and Virgin Media, over the next 12 months.

These channels broadcast music videos and related shows ...but have struggled for viewership in the streaming era, when music is dominated by subscription services like Spotify and Apple Music. Music videos are now synonymous with on-demand platform, YouTube.

The Box arrived on the airwaves back in 1992, inspired by Miami-based channel The Jukebox Network. Channel 4 acquired a 50% stake in the channel in 2007, before acquiring the remaining 50% in 2019.

Although Channel has only confirmed that linear channels under “The Box” umbrella will be removed from TV Guides across the UK for now, it has cautioned that more live channels from its portfolio will be shuttered “at the right time”.

an example of the comedy shows on Channel 4 streaming app, pictured on an unbranded tablet

Comedy is one of the genres that Channel 4 hopes will power its drive for paid subscribers


As Channel 4 turns its back on traditional TV channels, it will adopt a digital-first strategy for all commissions. This major shift will see resources poured into genres shown to drive streaming growth, like high-quality dramas, binge-able documentary series, comedy, and reality TV.

Younger audiences will be specifically targeted as part of this push.

Don’t expect to see a flood of new content from Channel 4 HQ though. According to the company, it wants a “ruthless focus on cut-through with fewer, stronger new titles that generate more scale and impact”. So, it’s quality over quantity.

The shows commissioned as part of this shake-up will appear on Channel 4’s streaming platform, which has a paid subscription tier that ditches the adverts.

But that’s not all, with Channel 4 looking to distribute its shows across new FAST (Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV) channels. These digital channels, including Samsung’s TV Plus, The Roku Channel, Amazon’s FreeVee, to name just a few, are entirely ad-funded, so you can watch everything without the need for a subscription.

With must-watch shows and films spread across a dizzying number of streaming services (and prices steadily increasing each year), these free-to-watch channels have become increasingly popular.

Channel 4 says its Fast Forward strategy will also increase “the amount of content on YouTube”. It also publishes a number of full episodes acrossits YouTube channel.

If the prospect of watching more shows and movies on Channel 4’s streamer fills you with dread’re likely not alone. Ofcom recently reported widespread viewer dissatisfaction with Channel 4’s streaming service, with users criticizing its usability and glitches.

Not only that, but it took over seven years for Channel 4 to bring its on-demand app to Sky Q, the flagship satellite set-top box from the brand. While some on-demand boxsets from Channel 4 were available on Sky Q as part of a bespoke between the brands, the full library only arrived with the launch of Channel 4’s app in December 2023.

The streaming app started life as 4oD, before it was rebranded to All4 in 2015, and then was renamed to Channel 4 last year. At the time, the broadcaster said its new one-name-fits-all approach reflects the fact that viewers “no longer distinguish between digital and linear content.”

With more viewers turning to streaming for their favourite shows, it makes sense for Channel 4 to put such a relentless focus on digital. It’s not alone either. Sky has announced job cuts across its business as it moves away from satellite dishes to its internet-powered services Sky Glass and Sky Stream. Likewise, Freeview's successor Freely is poised to launch in the coming months.

A key part of the Fast Forward plan outlined by Channel 4 will be “transforming Channel 4’s streaming platform through outsourced technology that delivers a step-change in the user experience for viewers and advertisers.” Its ambition is to double the number of paid subscribers watching on the streamer by 2030.

Dubbed Channel 4+, this optional ad-free streaming plan costs £3.99 per month, or £39.99 per year.

As well as ditching the ad breaks, Channel 4+ has an Early Access feature that allows subscribers to watch select series before they’re broadcast on linear channels on Freeview, Sky TV and EE TV as well as those with a free subscription plan. Series two of comedy Big Boys was made available early.

the cast of first dates are pictured in the restaurant in bath that will be home to the new series

Channel 4 is known for reality TV shows like Gogglebox and First Dates, pictured above, which heads to the city of Bath for its next series


Ultimately, theFast Forward strategy aims to increase digital revenue to 30% in 2024 and 50% by 2030.Digital revenues accounted for 27% of Channel 4’s total revenues last year and non-advertising revenues, which include partnerships and film revenues, rose to make up 10% of the total income.

Speaking about the sweeping changes set to kick-in over the next five years, CEO Alex Mahon said: "Channel 4 was designed to be ahead of the curve and has never stood still. The rate of change in our market is only speeding up. Our new strategy will accelerate our digital transformation — building on 2020's Future4 strategy and our founding public service principles — so Channel 4 remains a trusted, disruptive and distinctive brand into the 2030s, offering brilliant shows that people love and that matter.

“We are genuinely excited about the future. Channel 4 means something to British people – we are trusted, we are a beacon for quality, we stand out for fresh and exciting ideas that matter and will be even more important in a crowded landscape of global content.

“While getting ourselves into the right shape for the future is without doubt the right action to take, it does involve making difficult decisions. I am very sad that some of our excellent colleagues will lose their jobs because of the changes ahead. But the reality of the rapid downshift in the UK economy and advertising market demand that we must change structurally.

“As we shift our centre of gravity from linear to digital our proposals will focus cost reductions on legacy activity. In preparing for a new digital-first future, I hope we can make Channel 4 simpler – for staff and our suppliers – and create a more efficient, inclusive and high performing organisation.”

Lastly, the broadcaster confirmed plans to close its London-based headquarters as it searches for a new office space in the centre of the city. The move would happen in “the next few years” and Channel 4’s annual reports said the building was valued at £90 million in 2022 and £98 million in 2021.

It had previously committed to 600 roles being moved outside of London by the end of 2025. Under the plans, headcount will be similar to 2021 levels by reducing current roles by 18% – by making around 200 staff redundant and axing around 40 unfilled roles – and Channel 4 says 70% of proposed role closures would be from legacy operations staffing.

Last year, CEO Alexa Mahon and other top Channel 4 bosses declined a pay rise and deferred their bonuses. As part of efforts to reduce costs, a small number of programmes – such as reality show SAS: Who Dares Wins and talk show Steph’s Packed Lunch – have also been cancelled.

Additional Reporting By Charlotte McLaughlin, PA Senior Entertainment Reporter

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