Why is no one watching Channel 4?

With Oscars, Baftas, hits like Googlebox and critically acclaimed dramas such as Utopia, it looks like Channel 4 has had a good year - so why are audiences at a 30-year low?

On Tuesday Channel 4 announced their annual report for 2014 – full of facts and figures which should answer all manner of queries about the TV channel.


But more than anything I came away from their West London HQ with one burning question: why aren’t more viewers tuning in?

We were told Channel 4 won 303 awards in 2014 and I know those include three Oscars and eight Baftas. 

Their show reel was impressive and reminded me of hits like Googlebox and critically acclaimed programmes like Grayson Perry’s Who Are You? and the drama Utopia.

But then I flicked through the report and saw the Channel’s audience share is at a 31-year low.

Although its primetime audience is up 4% since last year, it had just 5.9% of total viewers last year, the lowest share since 1984, the channel’s second year on air.

The two things just don’t add up.

I asked channel boss Jay Hunt about it afterwards and she was typically positive.

She told me it has its highest ever share of viewers in the 16-34 year age group at 17 per cent.

And this market is the most important to advertisers, so moneywise the channel is still in decent shape, with revenue up £30 million to £938m.

But I long for the days when Channel 4 regularly pulled in audiences of four and five million and could fight toe-to-toe with BBC1 and ITV for primetime audiences.

I’m sure shows like Million Pound Drop and Indian Summer would get bigger ratings on another channel.

Yet Bear Grylls’ The Island, Benefits Street and The Undateables all performed reasonably well in their primetime slots.

So I am not sure if it is image, or older people being a bit predictable with what channel they switch on at night. I suppose since the proliferation of digital TV, it is also not the only risky channel anymore so may have lost a greater share of its audience than other major channels.

But with over 300 awards last year Channel 4 must be doing something right, so it might be worth some of you flicking over in 2015…


Mark Jefferies is Showbiz Editor at the Daily Mirror