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Channel 4 and Publicis ad price row rumbles on into 2019

The hold up means rivals like ITV, Sky and Channel 5 could stand to benefit from ad spend being diverted their way / Channel 4

Channel 4 and Publicis Media have failed to resolve a multimillion pound dispute over ad prices, leaving big spenders like Asda without airtime across the broadcaster's portfolio of channels.

2019 planning talks between the pair broke down in December, after Publicis took issue with Channel 4 upping ad prices despite a decline in audiences. It is believed Channel 4 wants to link ad prices to the wider figure Publicis Media spends with its sales arm, instead of basing the cost on audience share.

Last month, the Guardian placed the potential loss of the 'blackout' to Channel 4 at £210m, although a source with knowledge of the matter told The Drum the number was significantly lower.

The network and media giant were geared to reach a solution in eleventh hour talks held at the tail end of last year. However, it's understood that Publicis Media clients will now be kicking off 2019 without a deal in place to air commercials across Channel 4's 26 linear channels and three on-demand platforms.

Channel 4 and Publicis Groupe were unable to comment.

The hold up means rivals like ITV, Sky and Channel 5 could stand to benefit from ad spend being diverted their way.

Starcom, Spark44 and Blue449 are among Publicis Media's cohort of agency brands. Clients include Samsung and the world's biggest advertiser P&G – although the latter will be unaffected by the blackout since as it has its own deal with Channel 4.

In December, Channel 4's chief commercial officer Jonathan Allan took the unprecedented step of penning a letter to Publicis Media clients to inform them of the tussle.

In a statement to media in December, Allan said Channel 4 had "put forward competitive proposal to Publicis" and would continue discussions to "hopefully reach an agreement that suits both parties".

The duo's inability to reach a compromise ahead of the new year follows on from a similar row Channel 4 had with Denstu Aegis Network in 2018 which seen clients pulled off its inventory for just over a week until a resolve was agreed.

Channel 4's portfolio includes E4 and Film4. It also sells inventory on behalf of BT Sport and UKTV's multitude of channels.

The news comes amid huge pressures from advertisers on agency holding groups to drive down costs and break down internal silos.

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