Digby in, Perry out as new C4 sales boss Jonathan Allan tries to find his seven per cent solution

New Channel 4 sales boss Jonathan Allan (pictured), who joined a month ago from Omnicom’s OMD where he was managing director, has wasted no time ringing the changes at the UK broadcaster.

Head of airtime sales Mick Perry, who joined from Universal McCann just 18 months ago, is on his bike and Gary Digby, the former ITV director of sales, whose services were ungratefully dispensed with by ITV’s Adam Crozier and Fru Hazlitt earlier this year, has been brought in to replace him.

Digby’s first job is to try to help Allan defend C4’s current seven per cent audience share which will be under severe pressure as Richard Desmond’s rival Channel 5 surfs on the back of reality TV show Big Brother. Big Brother bolstered C4’s sales for over a decade but was dumped last year and then gratefully snapped up by new C5 owner Desmond.

Were C4’s share to slip below seven per cent the channel really would be in trouble as in the good, not so old days it used to pull in about nine per cent including a big and valuable younger late night audience.

Offshoot channels Film4 and E4 are performing well at the moment but the main TV channel desperately needs a new ratings winner or three.

Digby, who oversaw a record year of advertising at ITV before being shown the door has officially been hired as a ‘consultant’ to assist with C4’s crucial end of year negotiations with media agencies for 2012 budgets. But if C4’s share was to slide alarmingly in the last quarter of the year it would weaken its 2012 negotiating position considerably and it’s likely that he’ll be trying to drag in anything he can at a time when the UK ad market itself is contracting alarmingly.

Youthful new sales director Allan, 36, has never sold TV before, having spent all his career at OMD. So bringing in Digby is no doubt a smart move. But the station needs to get its programme act into gear if the reign of current CEO David Abraham, himself a former agency man at creative shop St Luke’s, isn’t going to be seen as a disaster.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.