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Channel 4 hits tech groups with BT Sport advertising deal


Channel 4 has landed a blow for traditional media companies against technology groups by winning a BT Sport advertising contract that had previously been held by Google.

The publicly owned commercial broadcaster has created a digital sales arm to sell ads for other media companies and has signed up BT Sport as its launch partner. Channel 4 already sells ads for BT Sport’s television channels but has added the contract for BT Sport’s on-demand services for mobile, tablet and PCs. The contract was previously held by Google.

Jonathan Lewis, Channel 4’s head of digital and partnership innovation, said BT Sport’s ad slots would be pooled alongside Channel 4’s own advertising windows.

We want this to be a place where media agencies and [advertising] clients can buy premium ad inventory at scale,” he said. “Advertisers can buy Channel 4 inventory but also inventory from BT Sport across Premier League football and the Champions League.”

The move comes as broadcasters and media companies explore new partnerships to make themselves more appealing to advertisers who are looking to reach bigger audiences. The strategy is intended to make them better at competing with Google and Facebook.

Efforts to create a joint advertising sales operation for the struggling UK national newspaper industry fell apart last year when the Daily Mail’s parent company pulled out of talks.

Meanwhile, in the US, the News Media Alliance, which represents almost 2,000 publishers, has called on Congress to allow them to negotiate collectively with digital distributors.

Channel 4 recently joined forces with three of Europe’s largest commercial broadcasters in an effort to compete with Google and Facebook, taking a 25 per cent stake in EBX, a new digital sales group, alongside ProSiebenSat.1 of Germany, TF1 of France and Italy’s Mediaset.

Google and Facebook have consolidated their strength in digital advertising in recent years. The two companies attracted about 84 per cent of global digital ad spending, excluding China, last year, according to a recent forecast from GroupM, the WPP-owned media buying agency.

The GroupM research, which underscored concerns that the two technology companies have become a digital duopoly, predicted that total global ad spending will increase by about $23bn, or 4.3 per cent, in 2018.

In the UK, Channel 4 and its rivals, such as Sky and ITV, sell their own ads individually. Mr Lewis said it was unlikely the three would ever join forces in the face of the threat from Google and Facebook.

 “Would ITV or Sky want to give up their sales sovereignty? I would say that’s unlikely but that’s not to say we can’t work more strategically together.”

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