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2024 The biggest year of advertiser funded programming in history

Prediction 8 - In 2024 we will see the biggest year for advertiser-funded programming ever

The softening of the TV ad market and the knock-on effect on programme commissioning means rethinking the role of AFP is more crucial than ever. If done right, ad-funded programming offers a huge opportunity for advertiser effectiveness. TV still holds top position as the medium with the highest signal strength, attention and reach. Brands that can create content audiences actively want to watch in this prestige space have the chance to reap the greatest rewards. The TV advertising headlines are pointing to a challenging year. ITV have warned that they are in the ‘worst ad recession since the financial crisis’. The slump in TV advertising – down 12.5% over the past year – prompted the Channel 4 chief executive, Alex Mahon, to declare that TV broadcasters were in “market shock territory”. This has resulted in a tough situation for traditional programme makers, for which the UK is globally renowned. Channel controllers in the past year have called it a ‘commissioning freeze’, a ‘recalibration’ and a ‘slowing down the pace’ of commissioning new shows and re-commissions. Previously green-lit productions have been decommissioned and last September Bectu reported 75% of film and TV freelancers were out of work. Naturally, this has an impact on UK creativity and entertainment, and we could see an unfortunate reduction in newly commissioned big-hitting programming, with a higher proportion of ‘safe bet’ TV bringing in regular but smaller audiences. We believe there is a silver lining here; an opportunity for everyone to re-think their thinking on AFP as a positive way to fill this funding gap. AFP has historically been seen as inferior by production companies and commissioners, while at the same time often exploited by advertiser demands. A healthy tension between advertiser objectives and editorial integrity can shape a positive mutual direction. AFP doesn’t have to be a glorified ‘ad pop up’ throughout a show, it can be seamlessly integrated into the narrative: adding to the show, not ads in the show. We just need everybody on board, the commissioning editors being flexible and open to brands bringing insights, audience, and specialist knowledge of their category (be that paint colours, travel destinations, cars, recipes etc) and the advertisers being more relaxed on creative control. ITV’s unveiling of BE Studio in November signals their intent in this area, and we predict exponential co-creation growth in 2024 across the industry. At a time when no digital format can clearly deliver the same cultural impact and stature as TV (see Mr Bates vs the Post Office), if programme makers can welcome what the brand can bring as well as their money then we can all make sweet music (well, telly).