Coca-Cola is to slash its £40 million sponsorship of ITV's
The Premiership in response to the network's retreat from its
controversial 7pm slot.
The soft drinks giant negotiated a two-tier sponsorship deal when it
stumped up to back the Des Lynam-fronted coverage before the start of
the season. ITV's decision to surrender family audiences and move The
Premiership to a male-dominated 10.30pm slot allows Coke to rip up the
original contract and move to a cheaper deal.
Media buyers reacted positively to news that the network would repeat
the broadcast at 9.25am on Sunday, but warned that ITV must make the
right substitution when revamping Saturday night.
"It would be good for it to package the two up as not many people are
going to watch it twice," MediaVest's managing director, Chris Locke,
said. "The problem is that it hasn't got a plan B. I don't think the BBC
will be too worried about Cilla Black, although ITV does have more
flexibility if it wants to schedule a movie."
The Premiership failed to recover from a disastrous opening when only
4.5 million viewers tuned in and the tabloid newspapers devoted front
pages to attacking the coverage.
"Had the market been different it could have been a brave move that
worked," BBJ's broadcast director, Chris Boothby, said. "But there was
lots of pressure from clients and ITV didn't have the confidence to push
The Premiership will move to its new schedule on 17 November.