Channel 4 to target Irish advertisers from new year

The UK public service broadcaster’s move adds to competitive pressures in TV market

Comedy dramas, such as Fresh Meat with  Zawe Ashton, Charlotte Ritchie, Kimberley Nixon, Joe Thomas, Jack Whitehall and Greg McHugh, attract a young audience to Channel 4. photograph: channel 4/pa

Comedy dramas, such as Fresh Meat with Zawe Ashton, Charlotte Ritchie, Kimberley Nixon, Joe Thomas, Jack Whitehall and Greg McHugh, attract a young audience to Channel 4. photograph: channel 4/pa

Thu, Nov 21, 2013, 01:04

Channel 4 will begin formally selling advertising in the Republic from January 1st, in a move that will add to the competitive pressures in the Irish television sector one year ahead of UTV’s entry into the market.

Medialink, Channel 4’s sales partner in Ireland, has begun to take bookings for the Irish advertising opt-out service for the channel, which has a 4 per cent share of commercial impacts – a measure of viewers’ exposure to advertisements – among Irish adults, and a 5 per cent share of the 25- to 44- year-old ABC1 market.

“It’s a channel that is very familiar to Irish audiences anyway and this is about opening that audience up to advertisers,” says Fiona McCann, sales director at Medialink, who adds that fashion, finance and fast-moving consumer goods brands are among the categories to express interest in targeting the “key demographic” of 25- to 44-year-olds.

Until now, advertisers who wanted to target viewers in the Republic could only book spots with what is known as the Northern Ireland “macro” region within Channel 4’s UK sales operation, in the knowledge that this would also gain exposure to viewers the Republic through an “overspill” effect.

The new opt-out will initially cover Channel 4’s broadcast via the Sky satellite platform and will eventually be extended to its carriage on UPC.

Channel 4 has been buoyed by what McCann calls the “fantastic success” of the opt-out service for Channel 4’s More4 drama and documentary offshoot, which it launched at the start of this year.

More4 complemented the opt-out for E4, which was introduced in 2002, offering advertisers access to an older demographic than the typical 16- to 34-year-old E4 viewer.

“The agencies and advertisers have really embraced it,” says McCann of More4 ad sales. The Channel 4 opt-out, however, is “a bigger proposition”.

The advertising-dependent UK public service broadcaster, which celebrated its 30th birthday last year, attracts a young audience to comedy dramas such as Fresh Meat and Misfits, and has scored a number of hits with critics and viewers alike in recent years, including The Inbetweeners and Skins. Relative to industry averages, these programmes gain a high percentage of their total viewing through online platforms, encouraging cross-platform sales practices.

“I think what we’re learning about the market is that you need to keep refreshing your offering,” says McCann. It is a case of “never a dull moment” in the television business at present, she says.

Channel 4 takes about a 2 per cent share of total viewing in the Republic, while competitor UTV’s existing “northern service” has about 3 per cent. However, Channel 4’s popularity with ABC1 adults and UTV’s exclusive rights to ITV Studios programming under its “southern service” from 2015, together with the planned extension to its availability in Irish homes, means the combined impact of the two channels on the television market may be more than double their current audience shares.

With Sky Ireland also continuing to add new services and products to its sales line-up, the new players will serve to squeeze advertising revenues at indigenous broadcasters RTÉ and TV3.

Television advertising revenues in the Republic clocked in at €202 million last year, according to estimates by media-buying agency Core Media.

Although industry sources indicate that broadcasters have seen positive momentum on ad bookings in recent months, a wobbly start to 2013 means total revenues for the year are still likely to come in lower than they did last year.

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