Magazine article Marketing

Can Films Pay off for C4?

Magazine article Marketing

Can Films Pay off for C4?

Article excerpt

As Channel 4 becomes the latest entrant in the digital pay-TV business, Conor Dignam examines whether the venture will succeed, and its potential impact on advertisers

Channel 4 will plunge into the melee that is digital pay-TV from November 1 with its own film channel, FilmFour, available to subscribers for [pounds]5.99 a month and showing 12 hours of films daily.

More than 500 films will be screened in its first year, with the first night featuring the premiere of Peter Greenaway's The Pillow Book, starring the ubiquitous Ewan McGregor. Carriage deals are being struck with all three major delivery platforms for digital; Sky Digital, ONdigital and all three national cable networks, which means that on launch FilmFour will be available to more than five million multi-channel homes.

Channel 4's publicly stated subscription target is 150,000 homes within the first 12 months, which would generate revenue of [pounds]10.8m. Given that the cost of the venture, and other as-yet-undisclosed digital projects, are being put at [pounds]30m over the next 12 months, the channel clearly sees it as a long-term investment.

"This is all about the strength of the Channel 4 brand," says David Brook, the channel's director of strategy and development, who was brought in from Channel 5 last year with a brief to develop its digital offering. "We did lots of research, where our target audience were asked which channel they would most like to see a new film channel launched by: Virgin, Disney, Sky, the BBC or Channel 4? Nine out of ten of them chose Channel 4, because of the promise of the brand. They know that it will be exciting, innovative and sexy."

But Brook admits: "We're not assuming it is going to be easy for a terrestrial channel to move into pay-TV," and the channel has recruited to help it make the move.

Dan Brooke, the former marketing director of Paramount's Comedy Channel has been signed up as FilmFour's head of marketing and development. FilmFour is being given "substantial on-air promotion" on Channel 4, and a national press marketing campaign will announce its launch.

Pre-launch trailers have already started running on Channel 4 and the first night's viewing will be simulcast on both FilmFour and Channel 4. The TV premiere of every Channel 4-funded film will be on the new pay channel, but people will still have the chance to see them first at the cinema or on video. It will be around 18 months before they appear on FilmFour, and then between three and six months before they are shown on Channel 4.

So what's FilmFour's main selling point to pull in the punters? Channel 4 admits it's not going to be premieres. …

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