Jamie Oliver to launch new show as part of deal with Channel 4

Chef agrees to work exclusively with broadcaster for another three years, with Jamie’s Quick & Easy showing this autumn

Jamie Oliver has struck a new multimillion-pound “golden handcuffs” deal with Channel 4, including a new TV series, that will tie him exclusively to the broadcaster for the next three years.

The agreement, which will extend his exclusive relationship with Channel 4 to 17 years, is a fillip for the celebrity chef after he was forced to shut six underperforming restaurants earlier this year.

It will include a brand new eight-part TV series this autumn, Jamie’s Quick & Easy, which will be accompanied by a cook book through his publisher Penguin.

“Sometimes the simplest things are the best – I can’t believe it’s taken me 20 years to work out that just focusing on five ingredients, killer combinations and technique can give you some of the most exciting cooking ever,” said Oliver of his new series.

The chef will also make an extended 12-episode run of Jamie & Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast.

Oliver started his TV career at the BBC with The Naked Chef in 1999, before defecting to Channel 4 in 2002 to make Jamie’s Kitchen.

He blamed lower footfall, the cost of staff training and the higher costs of importing luxury ingredients in a tough market following the EU referendum result for the recent closure of six Jamie’s Italian outlets which affected about 120 employees. It’s not the first backward step he has made since opening his first restaurant in 2002.

In 2015, he shut the last of his delicatessens, Recipease in London’s Notting Hill, following the closure of branches in Clapham Junction and Brighton the previous year. And in 2014, he gave up an attempt to revive traditional British grub, closing three of four of his Union Jack restaurants. Only the branch in London’s Covent Garden continues to operate.

Restaurants are crucial to the Oliver empire, accounting for almost three-quarters (£116m) of the £158m revenues his overall business made in 2015, according the most recent publicly available figures.

Overall, revenues for Oliver’s restaurant operation were up by 8.6% in 2015, although pre-tax profits fell by 39% to £2.3m due to fees from its abortive attempt to bring in private equity backing. Stripping this out, profits rose by 7.4%.

Oliver is planning to open 22 restaurants, from Düsseldorf to Reykjavik and in Australia, under the Jamie’s Italian and other brands. By the end of the year he is planning to have more than 100 restaurants worldwide.

He has restructured and refocused his media businesses after revenues fell by a quarter to £31.9m in 2015. Pre-tax losses of £9.8m in 2014, a year hit by exceptional write-offs, improved to just £1m in the red in 2015.

In September, Oliver scrapped his network of YouTube channels, which had grown to 17 with various food stars including DJ BBQ and Cupcake Gemma, to focus on the core three he is directly involved with – Food Tube, Drinks Tube and Family Food.

The overhaul includes a rethink of his monthly food travel and lifestyle magazine, Jamie, which in December revealed year-on-year sales down by 10% to 47,445.

Hearst, owner of Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar, has taken over the publishing contract and the repositioned magazine, targeting the urban female “foodie” market and focusing more on Oliver himself, is out this month.

Oliver’s empire saw total pre-tax profits rise from £200,000 in 2014 to £10.2m in 2015, enough to allow him to reportedly pocket a £3m dividend.


Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

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