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April 6, 2008

Major TV company gets Taste for events

In a landmark deal, Channel 4 has bought a 50% stake in Taste Events, a programme of food and drink festivals owned and managed by independent events organiser Brand Events.

The deal appears to be a reversal of the trend for turning TV shows into live events and shows the high regard with which Channel 4 clearly views the medium.

The Taste Events programme includes Taste of London, which was praised highly by O2’s head of interactive partnerships Paul Samuels recently during his lecture at the Association of Exhibition Organisers conference, where he was otherwise generally critical of exhibitions.

The deal delivers Channel 4 a potential new revenue stream to bolster its flagging TV advertising revenue, while creating a possible new vehicle to reach viewers – perhaps a Taste event will be the subject of one of the channel’s next fly-on-the-wall documentaries.

Taste Events now has the opportunity to build its community significantly to further develop and strengthen the brand, creating Channel 4-related features on site and new marketing platforms.

Commenting on the deal, Rod Henwood, new business director at Channel 4, said: “A key objective of our new business strategy is to diversify our revenue base, in part by investing in third-party businesses. Taste Events is a fantastic example of a business that complements the core channel and will benefit from the expertise Channel 4 can provide. A valuable addition to our existing 4Rights business, Taste will help extend Channel 4’s strong reputation in food programming beyond the TV arena.”

One has to wonder, however, whether the move is also a desperate attempt at boosting the channel’s content. Could it signal the first TV series to spin off the back of a live event?

Chris Hughes, managing director of Brand Events, was unsurprisingly delighted with the deal, saying: “Channel 4 will be a fabulous partner for creating new live event experiences. We are confident that a combination of our expertise in the business, coupled with Channel 4’s reputation for innovation and quality output will propel the ‘Taste’ business to stratospheric heights."

Meanwhile, Events Industry Alliance chief executive Trevor Foley saw the development as further proof of the rise and rise of live marketing. “Brand Events and Channel 4 will be just the first of a number of such deals involving big brand participation in event marketing,” he added. “The second coming of the newest medium, digital marketing, has heralded a new dawn for the oldest… the experience! Broadcast, press and direct marketing can all be replicated by online, but a live experience cannot!”

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