The news that Channel 5 has been talking to an Internet brand about an airtime-for-equity barter deal comes as no surprise. After all, TV airtime and Internet stocks have one thing in common: they’re both prone to inflation.
Although C5 has had a successful year in terms of revenue, its audience delivery is outstripping revenue achievements. C5 has some spare airtime – and barter deals seem a sensible way to get rid of it. It’s not only bartering with Net companies; it has also been involved in barter deals trading airtime for programming, thus supplementing its limited programming budget. Bartering for equity in Net brands, however, offers C5 both a way of attracting more advertisers, and the possibility of making a killing in the long term should any of its barter partners float for the kind of astronomical sums we’ve all been reading about recently.
It’s hard to see a downside. Barter deals can sometimes be used as a way of encouraging a reluctant sector onto a medium. In this case, nothing could be further from the truth. October saw the highest TV revenue to date, largely driven by the influx of big-spending Net brands. C5 may also believe that innovative deals help it to grab a bigger slice of a sector which might be naturally tempted by the more targeted audiences available on satellite.
C5 has also struck a deal with online retailer Jungle.com to sponsor a special Internet Night on Wednesday, December 1 (MW November 18). Up to now, the retailer’s advertising hasn’t given enough information about the brand to attract much of an audience beyond Net-heads. If Jungle.com gets the creative work right, the longer exposure offered by a sponsorship deal could be a step in the right direction.
Is an Internet Night a good idea for C5? On the surface you could argue that C5’s audience profile is wrong for this kind of programming – it’s too old. But it does have individual programmes that deliver younger and more upmarket audiences. Undoubtedly there is potential for C5 to attract a different audience for this one night, assuming that it is promoted well.
On the other hand, a whole evening about the Net could be a big turn-off, literally. The secret of success must ultimately be the same as the secret of success for a Website: content, content, content.
Having seen the planned programming, frankly we’re slightly worried.
Admittedly there’s one documentary called How To Make A Billion and one called Sex, both of which could appeal beyond a techie audience.
But the evening’s centrepiece, a movie called The Net, turns out not to be the blockbuster movie of the same name, starring Sandra Bullock, but a made-for-TV film spin-off.
That’s probably not a bad metaphor for many Internet sites at the moment: they promise a lot, but when you get there, they’re disappointing.
Mark Collins is broadcast director of MediaCom TMB and Barry Cree is director of Media.Com Interactive