Channel 4 Enters the Cannabis Sector

Stephen Andrews
11 Apr 2022

Media companies in the UK have remained largely uninvolved in the cannabis sphere. However, Channel 4 is now poised to change that. The Leeds-based broadcaster has just struck a deal with cannabis operator Cannaray, and it may soon launch cannabis-related content and advertising on its network.

The recent deal between Channel 4 and Cannaray is seen as a game-changer for the UK market. Although it's a public broadcasting service, Channel 4 functions differently than the BBC. Founded in 1982, Channel 4 accepts advertisements and sponsored content and its funding model is similar to its American counterparts. 

The venture has now expanded into the domain of cannabis. An investment with Cannaray will exercise muscle into strange legal territory where not even CBD is entirely cleared. 

For the deal, Channel 4 has reportedly dedicated a portion of £10m throughout its private equity division. Launched in 2017, C4 Ventures is the largest media-for-equity fund in the UK. It enables the broadcaster to exchange advertising inventory on Channel 4 platforms for equity in startups. 

Cannaray has been backed by two other investment firms, Three Bridges Private Capital and Alpha Blue Ocean. The funding from C4 Ventures will give this operator access to a "high-reach upmarket TV audience" where it can push its flagship wellness CBD brand in the UK. The deal comes at a moment when online sales of CBD in the UK soar, having almost doubled in 2021 compared to previous years. 

Scott Maguire, Cannaray's chief executive, said: "I am delighted with the high participation of both existing and new investors within this funding round and thank them for putting their money and faith in us.

"The Channel 4 Ventures backing is one of the first of its kind in the European cannabis sector, and a sign of the credibility and growth opportunity available within the market. Having created one of the leading CBD brands in the UK, we are now focused on building Europe's leading medical cannabis company and improving the lives of millions of people."

With the blessing of the Food Safety Authority, Channel 4 is to host the first CBD product advertising in the UK. Over time, content may expand to encompass program sponsorship, too. 

Cannabis programming could become a significant new source of revenue for ventures such as Channel 4, especially since its outreach includes digital television and social media. The program may quickly become a model for cannabis advertising and media sponsorship in other countries in Europe.

What cannabis-related content could Channel 4 air? The Great British Bake Off has been one of the network's most successful shows, so it would be no surprise if cannabis cooking shows take over and become a common feature of the station. Cooking shows would be especially relevant since Channel 4 often imports programming from North America. 

The UK and Europe have different policies on medical product advertising, and if they have one thing in common, it's there won't be an open talk about THC. At least not in the beginning. However, there is an opportunity for creating content that will aim to educate the masses on all things cannabis. Especially since there are quite some intriguing intersections between cannabis and pop culture, and in that case, it would be hard to avoid THC. 

If Channel 4 shares such a vision for cannabis content, they are up for a high ride!

Stephen Andrews