MEDIA: ITV change hits Baywatch deal

ITV’s decision to pull Baywatch, which is sponsored by Wella, out of its Saturday evening schedule and replace it with a new teen programme has raised questions about sponsorship deals and their vulnerability to programme rescheduling.

ITV’s decision to pull Baywatch, which is sponsored by Wella, out of its

Saturday evening schedule and replace it with a new teen programme has

raised questions about sponsorship deals and their vulnerability to

programme rescheduling.



According to ITV, Baywatch has been suspended from air after eight weeks

because the programme caught up with the US schedule.



An ITV representative said: ‘We began transmission earlier than intended

because SeaQuest 2032 wasn’t delivering what we had hoped for. Baywatch

was brought forward and production schedules got ridiculously tight.’



A new US import, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, will run in the 5.30pm slot

on Saturdays and is set to compete against BBC1’s The Simpsons, which

will be on at 5.30pm from November 23.



A spokesman from Laser, the ITV sales house which helped to broker the

Wella sponsorship, said: ‘We have to decide whether or not to proceed.’



Wella, which renewed its sponsorship this summer, signed up for 22

episodes and said it will continue to sponsor Baywatch.



ITV however, may not put it back on air until after Easter.



Since early summer ITV has aggressively revamped its weekend schedule to

try to maintain audience share. With next year’s Channel 5 launch, and

the increasing presence of satellite and cable TV, scheduling is set to

sharpen in 1997.



But one media source said: ‘This is just a momentous cock-up which makes

the broadcasters look stupid. Wella will now have a gap in its marketing

plans which it will have to do something with.’



The decision by ITV to move Baywatch poses serious questions about the

processing of information from the network to the regional centres. One

media buyer said: ‘ITV is fatally decentralised in that the head doesn’t

seem to talk to the arms. This cannot be said of any other channel.’



According to the latest figures on audiences for Baywatch, the US series

underwent a decline in viewers from just over 5.8 million on November 2

to 5.38 million on November 16.



Compared with the same time last year, Baywatch has lost almost 1.5

million viewers.