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As preparations begin to be made for the relocation of Channel 4’s head office away from London, and ‘up north’ to Leeds, it begs the question: is capable of bridging the gap between itself and the capital to become a digital leader in the UK?
Leeds has an emerging digital industry, with five out the top 10 Prolific North digital agencies in the UK based in Leeds. Channel 4’s decision to move up to the city is just the latest sure sign that Leeds is on its way to becoming a digital powerhouse, beating off cities like Manchester and Birmingham to win digital investment.
Channel 4’s Leeds Plan
Channel 4 will move roughly around 300 of its 800 staff to Leeds as part of the relocation, with the broadcaster looking to increase spending on programming outside London to £250m over the next five years, meaning that half of the channel’s budget will be spent outside of the capital.
The move will boost the already growing economy in Leeds, and although no statement has yet been made on which members of staff will relocate and which decisions will be made in the city, it is understood that many critical decisions related to the channel will be made away from London.
A digitally-mature city with excellent links to the other big cities in the country, Leeds is the perfect destination for a growth-driven national broadcaster like Channel 4, and other potential big digital investors.
Channel 4 won’t be out in the cold by moving to Leeds; the city already boasts many businesses that have brought digital investment to the city. Video gaming giant Rockstar Games was founded in the city over 20 years ago, with Sky Bet and NHS Digital also proud to call Leeds home.
According to Tech Nation’s 2017 Leeds tech sector report, 92% of local startups believe that growth potential for the Leeds tech sector is good, whereas 66% believe that the strength of the digital economy is good, a number likely to rise with the introduction of big players like Channel 4.
Opening the Door for Future Investment
Channel 4’s Leeds move could and should become a catalyst for a surge in digital investment into the city. With an economy worth around £21bn, there is significant room for digital growth.
The introduction of the Northern Powerhouse by the government is also key to Leeds’ future digital success. With a promise that investment will begin to shift away from the capital to northern UK cities, Leeds has to be a frontrunner for investors looking to settle and build digital businesses outside of London.
With a household broadcaster like Channel 4 actively choosing Leeds over bigger cities like Manchester and Birmingham, other digital investors will be prompted to assess why this decision is made, enabling them to find out the real potential that Leeds has as a digital hub.
Although still very much in the early stages of implementation, Channel 4’s move to Leeds shows just how promising the future is for the city regarding its digital investment in the UK. If more big-name digital companies can follow Channel 4’s example and be drawn to Leeds, the city can potentially bridge the gap between itself and London.
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