Magazine article Marketing

Brand Health Check: Channel 4

Magazine article Marketing

Brand Health Check: Channel 4

Article excerpt

Can the broadcaster adapt its revenue model to a changing market, asks Sarah Johnson.

Set on the route of 'managed decline' is the way Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom, described Channel 4 last week. This seemingly confirmed the pleas of its chief executive, Andy Duncan, who has been telling anyone who will listen that the channel will have a pounds 150m annual funding gap by 2012.

For a privately owned business, this would spell disaster and probably bankruptcy. But as a publicly owned broadcaster, C4 has a back-up plan: beg for public money, which has now been rejected, or thrash out a merger with one of its rival broadcasters.

Fortunately, Duncan's calls have not fallen on deaf ears. Since Ofcom's report, the government has expressed a willingness to explore the latter option, and a potential merger with BBC Worldwide is on the cards However, this in turn could be risky for the C4 brand, as it is dependent on it extending its public-service obligations.

Herein lies the potential problem - one of the broadcaster's strengths in attracting advertisers is that it provides a target audience of young, upmarket viewers. But if C4 takes on further public-service commitments, as Ofcom proposes, it may have to widen its audience, thus losing this advantage.

Will Channel 4 be able to make the transition into a partnership for funding while maintaining its distinct brand identity? We asked Andrew Hawkins, chief executive at DCH, who worked on the Carlton TV account, and former BBC marketing director Sue Farr, chief executive at Chime Communications.

DIAGNOSIS

Two industry experts suggest how Channel 4 can regain its cutting edge

ANDREW HAWKINS MANAGING DIRECTOR, DCH

I love Channel 4. From The Last Resort to The Daily Show, from Hill Street Blues to The Sopranos, it has helped me navigate Thursday and Friday-night viewing for 25 years.

I subscribed to Film4 when you had to pay for it, as much to 'do the right thing' as for the content. My latest instalment of payback came last Saturday night, when I saw Slumdog Millionaire, a Film 4 co-production, the star of which 'was discovered' by Danny Boyle's daughter - a fan of E4's Skins.

The sheer strength of the brand is best demonstrated when you can identify shows that 'should really have been on C4', like Mad Men and The Wire. Critics of this dependence on US imports should revisit the original C4 values: daring, inventive and experimental. C4 should be about intelligent entertainment, and if it does not create cutting-edge content, it needs to buy it.

The broadcaster is looking at a hole of pounds 150m in 2012 once analogue is switched off. …

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