Channel 4 cuts late booking fees for three months

Jamie: Keep Cooking and Carry On: made just last weekend
Jamie: Keep Cooking and Carry On: made just last weekend

Broadcaster experiencing record audience figures as people self-isolate.

Channel 4 is cutting late booking charges over the next three months and reducing its advanced booking deadlines from eight to four weeks, as it looks to support advertisers, encourage advertising and protect its own revenue from impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The broadcaster, 90% of whose business is ad-funded, is also offering discounted cost-per-thousand on All 4 bookings and reducing fixed-cost options for its daytime programming.

Matt Salmon, Channel 4’s director of sales, told Campaign that advertisers from "the obvious categories" have been reducing spend as lockdown and travel restrictions are enforced, so the broadcaster is "doing as much as we can to support businesses".

"Last week, we decided we won’t charge a premium for post-advanced booking, so we’ve suspended those charges for March, April and May," Salmon said. It is generally thought that 15-20% of TV ad bookings are "late", so the move should appeal to advertisers.

While sustaining ad revenue is an uphill struggle, Channel 4 has been benefiting from heightened audience figures across linear and digital TV, due to people being stuck at home. Viewing figures for Channel 4 News were up 18% last week for all individuals and a massive 84% among younger viewers.

Gogglebox and The Last Leg drew record audiences last Friday and, most recently, last night’s Celebrity Bake Off (Tuesday) peaked at 4.1 million. The broadcaster has been quick on its feet to produce content pertinent to the UK’s new reality – Jamie Oliver’s Jamie: Keep Cooking and Carry On was filmed just last weekend and went live this week, with Salmon saying it has performed strongly.

"Because we’re seeing significant audience growth on linear and fast growth on All 4 as more people use digital to catch up with content they’ve not watched, we've also decided to reduce the cost-per-thousand on All 4 and video-on-demand," Salmon said.

While he would not go into specifics, Salmon explained that different trading arrangements were being made with different advertisers: "But I’d say that they are significant discounts."

"One thing that’s grown is daytime viewing, which is allowing us to offer reduced costs on brand advertising during daytime, particularly for businesses in the direct-response space," he added.

Channel 4 is also – "given the lack of certainty and visibility" – offering "advertisers as much flexibility as possible". Salmon continued: "We’ve taken the big decision to reduce our AB (advanced booking) deadlines from eight to four weeks, temporarily across June, July and August."

Given that a reduced AB deadline is not that appealing to some advertisers, Channel 4 is incentivising brands with discounts on cost-per-thousand for video-on-demand for all brands that approve their campaigns within a new four-week deadline, as opposed to the usual eight weeks. Because the market is generating less ad revenue but experiencing audience growth, Salmon insisted that advertisers could enjoy one of best-ever-value linear TV markets.

"For us, such a unilateral move is desgined to be as helpful as possible," he said. "The reality is that loads of research during every recession shows that brands that continue to advertise in bad times comes out much stronger on the other side."

Earlier this week, ITV reduced its programme budget by £100m in light of a weaker advertising market.

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