Is Idris Elba about to buy Channel 4?
Idris Elba could soon become the new owner of UK broadcaster Channel 4, according to reports.
As per The Sunday Times (opens in new tab), Elba is in talks with Marc Boyan, a billionaire entrepreneur with designs on spearheading a bid to buy the UK channel, which is currently up for sale.
Boyan is the owner of the Miroma group, a television production and marketing company that counts a number of digital marketing and publicity brands among its roster. The Sunday Times report states that the pair are preparing a one billion-pound ($1.22 billion) bid for Channel 4.
Channel 4, which is a self-financing public corporation (in the sense that it is publicly-owned by the UK government, but commercially run), has been officially up for sale since April of this year, after UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries announced that the British government were looking to sell off the channel. Banking giant JP Morgan are handling the sale, with the government reportedly looking to raise up to two billion pounds ($2.44 billion) in the process.
If the report is to be believed, Elba and Boyan will face an awful lot of competition. Warner Bros Discovery, ITV, Paramount, Universal’s parent company, Comcast, Vivendi, the French media giant, Netflix and Amazon are all reportedly in the running, with Dorries, at this point, favouring a bid from Paramount, fresh from the launch of Paramount Plus UK.
If Dorries gets her way, the sale’s process will be formally triggered next month, with a new bill coming to parliament. There is, however, significant opposition to the move, with a number of Conservative MPs expected to vote against the sale.
Analysis: Why is the UK government determined to sell Channel 4?
It’s fair to say that the decision, which is being driven by a very determined Dorries, is an ideological one and not a financial one. Unlike the BBC, Channel 4 does not get funding from the UK government, and is no burden on the public purse.
In her statements about the process, Dorries has talked about “freeing” Channel 4 from state control with a view to it competing with the likes of Netflix and Prime Video, though she has also, charmingly, called opposition to the move (opens in new tab) “…lazy, overwrought and ill-inform rhetoric from the Leftie luvvie lynch mob”.
Channel 4 itself does also not want to be sold and, at the time of Dorries’ announcement, issued a statement calling the government’s actions “disappointing.” (opens in new tab)
In a landscape where Netflix will spend almost $20 billion on content in a single year, the two billion the UK government hopes to receive for Channel 4 is a proverbial drop in the ocean.
That’s the reason there are so many suitors. Buyers will inherit all the infrastructure of Channel 4 as well as the broadcaster’s back catalog. If Netflix or Paramount were to snap it up, they’d be able to drop shows like The Inbetweeners, Derry Girls or the Great British Bake-Off straight onto their respective platforms. They’d also get Film4’s back catalog, which includes movies like Trainspotting, 12 Years A Slave and Slumdog Millionaire.
Even if the price gets to two billion, it’s a bargain. Whether Elba and Boyan can raise that kind of money will be interesting, and what would they do with Channel 4 if they bought it? We’ll see which bid is successful, unless Dorries’ parliamentary colleagues manage to stop her in her tracks.