Channel 4 sees late surge in Paralympic ads

Channel 4 has seen a surge in late advertising requests from both sponsors and non-sponsors of the Paralympics as viewing figures for the event have far exceeded expectations.

Oscar Pistorius

The broadcaster had conservatively estimated before the Games that its coverage would reach a peak audience of 2.5 million, but around 11.2 million viewers tuned in to watch the opening ceremony at its peak, according to unofficial figures – its biggest audience in more than 10 years.

Channel 4 has also maintained a strong audience share across its coverage of Paralympics sporting events, attracting a peak audience of 4.5 million viewers this Sunday when Alan Oliveira beat Oscar Pistorius to gold in the T44 200 metres men’s final. Unofficial figures also suggest Channel 4 stole 10 percentage points off ITV1’s share during the X Factor last Saturday (1 September) night.

It extended its coverage of the event earlier this week, by moving sporting events that were due to be shown on sister channel More4 in the afternoon to the flagship channel in light of the unprecedented viewing figures.

Prior to the opening ceremony, some media agencies had told Marketing Week they were cautious of placing ad spots around the event, with even sponsors’ appetites towards the idea being described as “luke warm”.

Now Channel 4 claims sponsors, which Marketing Week understands includes BMW’s Mini and EDF, and non sponsors have come forward with late advertising spend. Some advertisers that already bought Paralympics packages have also upped the amount of times they will appear around the event’s ad breaks.

Jonathan Allan, Channel 4’s sales director, says: “Advertisers are now trying to be a lot more tactical around the key events and recognising the big races and the big stars. We’re definitely getting the star effect where brands want to be around Oscar [Pistorius] or Ellie [Simmons] in a way they may not have recognised before.”

Leila Gould, Total Media’s head of TV, says: “[Advertisers] are considering the Paralympics whereas previously they were not. It’s reminded clients there is still a need for TV, especially how it is getting people talking on social media around such positive content.”

While advertisers are taking up more Paralympic packages, this does not necessarily mean extra money is coming into Channel 4, according to Chris Locke, UK trading director of Starcom MediaVest Group. He says those who were already advertising with Channel 4 are simply converting existing budgets into Paralympics packages to capitalise on the high audiences.

He also speculates that Channel 4 may drop ads altogether from the closing ceremony, following viewer criticism that it featured too many breaks during the opening ceremony. If it is planning this, the broadcaster may already be compensating brands who had booked slots by giving them extra ad minutage during the sporting events, he says.

Once the closing ceremony is over, Channel 4 faces the task of maintaining some of its new audience as it moves forward to its Q4 schedule, according to Dilshan Swaris, associate director at Carat.

He adds: “Channel 4 has been criticised for the last year and a half for not having any big big properties since Big Brother…now when it comes to talking about viewer share they have a much better story to tell to advertisers and agencies.”

Gavin Jones, vision director of MPG Media Contacts, argues that criticisms about Channel 4’s loss of Big Brother will have “disappeared” in 2013, thanks to its strong lineup of programmes commissioned by chief creative officer Jay Hunt and its audience uplift following the Paralympic Games.

“Channel 4 will be a very attractive place for advertisers next year; its reputation is back on track,” he says.

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