The publicly-owned broadcaster has spent about £4 million to take undisclosed minority stakes of up to 25 per cent in the companies, the first investments from a £20 million fund that aims to help the growth of small and medium-sized independent producers.
Channel 4 is not able to be directly involved in making programmes under the terms of its broadcasting licence. However, there is nothing to stop it taking stakes in production companies, although this is the first time the broadcaster has made such investments.
Its traditional TV advertising income faces long-term decline.
“This is a significant moment for Channel 4,” said David Abraham, chief executive. “This is just the start and we will be announcing more deals over the course of the next year.”
Channel 4 has invested in Lightbox, founded by Simon Chinn, the Academy Award-winning producer behind documentaries Searching for Sugar Man and Man on Wire; Arrow Media, a specialist in the factual programming field; Popkorn, maker of shows including Sky1’s Football behind Bars, Channel 4’s Living with my Stalker; and True North, which makes MTV’s Welsh reality show The Valleys and the BBC’s Animal SOS.