C4 announces Freeview launch date for FilmFour

The free-to-air FilmFour channel will launch on 23 July and will carry advertising.

Channel 4 has confirmed that its channel FilmFour will begin broadcasting free-to-air on 23 July. The launch will be supported by Channel 4's biggest marketing campaign to date, with ads directed by the actor Kevin Spacey.

The campaign, created by 4creative in conjunction with RSA Films, breaks on 1 July. The TV ads feature Ewan McGregor, Dame Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe and Christian Slater, among others.

The activity starts with one week of "subliminal" blipverts, before the TV ads break on 7 July. There are five separate executions showing the stars in comic scenarios.

In one ad, the actress Lucy Lui is shown flying a small plane over London shouting "FilmFour is free". Another shows Dame Judi and McGregor dressed as a lobster and a tomato, standing in Trafalgar Square handing out "FilmFour is free" leaflets.

Polly Cochrane, Channel 4's director of marketing, said: "We had four possible launch campaigns and what came back from the research we commissioned was that the British public is hugely suspicious of anything that you used to have to pay for that is now free.

"We have chosen a route that has humour at its core. FilmFour is a very aspirational brand and all we needed to do was provide reassurance. It's a new message from an existing, much-loved channel, so the campaign is incredibly simple: it just rams home the message that the channel is now free."

The TV ads will be supported with poster, radio, cinema and online activity.

Channel 4 announced earlier this year it was moving FilmFour from a subscription-based channel to the Freeview platform.

The broadcaster has predicted the channel, which will carry ad breaks within films for the first time, will be available in 18 million homes by the end of 2006.

FilmFour will feature themed evenings, such as "Saturday Night Shocks" and "The 9pm Slot". Cochrane revealed FilmFour is considering original programming and already has a number of projects in the pipeline.

Channel 4 is also launching a FilmFour branded video-on-demand subscription service, which will be available on broadband, mobile and cable.

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