Idris Elba may soon become the new owner of British broadcaster Channel 4, according to reports.
According to The Sunday Times (opens in new tab)Elba is in talks with Marc Boyan, a billionaire businessman with plans to spearhead a bid to buy the UK channel, which is currently for sale.
Boyan is the owner of Miroma Group, a television production and marketing company that has several digital marketing and advertising brands on its roster. The Sunday Times report claims the pair are preparing a £1 billion ($1.22 billion) bid for Channel 4.
Channel 4, which is a self-funded public company (in the sense that it is publicly owned by the UK government but managed commercially), has been officially on sale since April of this year after UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, announced that the British government was looking to sell the canal. Banking giant JP Morgan is handling the sale, with the government trying 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 a lot of competition. Warner Bros. Discovery, ITV, Universal’s parent company Paramount, Comcast, French media giant Vivendi, Netflix and Amazon are all in the running, with Dorries, at this point, favoring a Paramount offering, just launched from Paramount. In addition to the UK.
If Dorries gets what he wants, the sale process will be formally triggered next month, with a new bill heading to parliament. There is, however, significant opposition to the move, with several 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 ideological rather than financial. Unlike the BBC, Channel 4 does not receive funding from the UK government and is not a burden on the public purse.
In her statements about the lawsuit, Dorries talked about “freeing” Channel 4 from state control to compete with Netflix and Prime Video, although she has also, charmingly, called opposition to the movement (opens in new tab) “…lazy, exaggerated and ill-informed rhetoric of the Leftie luvvie lynch mob.”
Channel 4 itself doesn’t want to be sold either, and at the time of Dorries’ announcement, issued a statement calling the government’s actions “disappointing”. (opens in new tab)
In a scenario where Netflix will spend nearly $20 billion on content in a single year, the two billion the UK government expects to receive for Channel 4 is a proverbial drop in the bucket.
That’s why there are so many suitors. Buyers will inherit all of Channel 4’s infrastructure, as well as the broadcaster’s back catalogue. If Netflix or Paramount did it, they could launch shows like The Inbetweeners, Derry Girls or Great British Bake-Off directly on their respective platforms. They would also get the Film4 back catalog, which includes films like Trainspotting, 12 Years A Slave, and Slumdog Millionaire.
Even if the price reaches 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 will see which proposal succeeds, unless Dorries’ fellow MPs can stop her.