C4 starts £10m bidding war

Channel 4 has sparked a £10m sponsorship bidding war for three of its most successful series, the Friday night comedy Frasier and dramas Ally McBeal and ER.

Channel 4 has sparked a &£10m sponsorship bidding war for three of its most successful series, the Friday night comedy Frasier and dramas Ally McBeal and ER.

Top brands, including those in the financial services and dot-com sectors, are understood to be scrambling to win high-profile sponsorship deals for new series of the three properties, which begin in the new year.

A C4 spokesman says: “Existing sponsors have the first option.” But it is thought the sponsorship prices could rocket to a total of &£10m for the three programmes as a result of fierce competition and following changes to sponsorship rules which come into effect this week.

Frasier is sponsored by troubled pensions company Equitable Life in a &£4m deal struck at the beginning of the year through New PHD. It covers episodes on C4, the Paramount Comedy Channel and British Airways’ inflight TV service. However, Equitable’s marketing strategy is unclear since it was put up for sale following a House of Lords ruling that its decision to cut the bonuses paid to 90,000 holders of guaranteed policies was illegal. It faces an estimated &£1.5bn bill. The company refuses to comment.

Ally McBeal is sponsored by IPC Electric’s website for women BeMe.com and is understood to be worth about &£3m. The existing deal, which started last February, was believed to be the first high-profile programme sponsorship by a dot-com.

A new sponsor is being sought for hospital drama ER, which returns to C4 at the beginning of next year. Volvo sponsored the most recent series in a &£1.5m deal.

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