Covid-19 “turbo-charges” shift to brand-funded television programmes

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by Stephen Chapman

Brand-funded content is proving a “necessity” for cash-strapped broadcasters, according to a new report from Manchester-based media intelligence consultancy, K7 Media.

The pandemic has “turbo-charged” the move and has also accelerated a change in attitudes towards it.

The report, Brand Funded Programming: Why it Matters Now includes interviews with 26 industry experts from around the world.

“We’ve seen brands move away from traditional advertising for some time now, as consumers are engaging in a very different way. This shift in consumer behaviour, coupled with the effects of the pandemic on the TV industry, has seen brand funded programming benefit significantly,” explained report author and non-Executive Director Clare Thompson.

“The cloud of COVID certainly has its silver lining in terms of the opportunities for brands, producers and broadcasters to collaborate on the right projects.”

Lockdowns around the world, coupled with a fall in advertising have created an environment for branded-content. That’s because there’s an increase in demand for new programming from viewers, but with a fall in advertising revenue, broadcasters’ budgets are being squeezed.

“With interviews from notable industry bodies around the world, Brand Funded Programming: Why it Matters Now paints as global a picture as possible of the rapid rise of branded entertainment,” added K7 Media’s CEO & Founder, Keri Lewis Brown.

“We’ve collated key insights and tips gleaned, with the hope that best practice from all parties involved can perhaps help to build some invaluable new financial and creative models for the future.”

The report also looks at which models of brand funded programming are most successful and how they are impacted by territory, platform, genre and audience differences. 

“Content is a great way to highlight brand purpose – much more effective than a 30 second spot. So brands that have had a story to tell during COVID times, about their place in the community for example, can really benefit from branded entertainment now. That could be Unilever, P&G, Amazon, or other e-commerce brands,” said Samantha Glynne, Global Senior Vice President of Branded Entertainment at Fremantle.

The report also demonstrated that global interest is such that different territories are trying to co-produce and navigate differing regulations across a single piece of content:

"We proved that survival shows do work in China and we also proved that branded survival shows also work there. And ultimately that it was possible to make two different versions and still make the Chinese version feel appropriate by making sure the Chinese characters worked well together with the international characters,” explained Donovan Chan, Creative Director of Beach House Pictures in Singapore, which is behind the joint production of Ed Stafford: First Man Out, for Discovery and Bilibili in China:

“So we crossed a lot of barriers with that one project and learnt so much about how the Chinese love branded content and how these models can work for future productions."