EXCLUSIVE: Channel 4 has abruptly cancelled its Four Weddings reboot in a move that has had the industry speculating over the state of the network’s finances amidst declining ad revenues and an economic downturn.
Deadline understands around two-dozen people were due to start production on Four Weddings shortly but were informed earlier this week that the show had been stood down, leaving the production team blindsided. ITV Studios-backed MultiStory Media was producing the reboot and it was commissioned several weeks ago, with production due to take place over the summer. Freelancers have instead been given a compensation package for a two-week notice period, we understand.
Four Weddings aired on Sky for four seasons around a decade ago and sold to several territories around the world including TLC in the U.S. The Come Dine with Me-style show follows four brides or grooms attending each other’s weddings, as they rate them on dress, venue, food and overall experience. One particularly famous episode featured Steps star Faye Tozer’s marriage to Michael Smith.
UK networks are already rebooting Big Brother, Survivor, Gladiators and Deal or No Deal this year but it appears Four Weddings won’t be joining them.
The abrupt axing has had the industry speculating over the state of Channel 4’s finances.
Several sources believe more cancelations could be incoming as Channel 4 grapples with a rapidly declining ad market – forecast to drop between 10% to 20% over the coming months – combined with rising budgets.
While these issues are not unique to Channel 4 – ITV, Channel 5, Warner Bros. Discovery UK and many others are feeling the pinch – sources pointed to specific decisions made by Channel 4 in recent months, including sports rights investment and primetime entertainment bets such as the 18-part Rise and Fall, which failed to garner big audiences or praise from critics.
“We feel like they’re struggling,” one producer who has made shows for Channel 4 said bluntly. Another pointed out that the channel is desperate to prove that its finances are in a strong position following the lengthy privatization battle, during which Channel 4 bosses repeatedly argued that it didn’t require a sale in order to sustain itself in the market.
Content boss Ian Katz’s remarks last week that “we are well stocked with shows into this year and next” and “in many ways the wider economy is healthier than many people expected at the backend of last year” left some members of the UK production and freelance community with a sour taste.
Sources said Katz’s comments didn’t match up with what they are hearing from Channel 4 commissioning editors and several shared these frustrations with Deadline unprompted following Katz’s Wales Screen Summit set-piece.
“The frustration is coming from the top – indie bosses – and lower down – the freelance community, who are already facing long periods out of work,” said one. Bectu yesterday posted a survey that found almost half of its members were out of work, with 75% saying they are struggling to make ends meet.
Channel 4, meanwhile, is also under pressure on a different front following the leaking of audio that raises fresh questions over how it dealt with bullying allegations agains the stars of Escape to the Chateau.
Channel 4 had not responded to Deadline’s requests for comment by publication time.