AstraZeneca funds Discovery TV series

AstraZeneca is poised to break fresh ground in its use of the media as a vehicle for publicity by part-funding a TV show in what is understood to be an unprecedented move for a major pharmaceutical company.

A series, under the working title ‘Body Wars’, is being produced by Two Four Production and is set to air on the Discovery Channel.

Details of the programme’s content remain under wraps. A spokesperson for AZ would only say: ‘We have nothing to report at this time because the project is still under consideration’ – but production is understood to be well under way.

The programme promises to go beyond product placement and will give the company more control over production and editorial than a simple sponsorship package.

Mike Falconer, managing director of TBWA’s brand content division Stream, said the US leads the way in advertiser-funded programming, with reality TV shows such as The Apprentice, The Contender and The Restaurant all involving advertisers at the production stage.

He added that media regulator Ofcom’s new code for broadcast programming and sponsorship, which comes into effect in January 2005, promises to allow companies to more fully promote their involvement in content creation in the UK.

In Europe, youth-targeted programmes such as the Pepsi Chart Show, Passengers for Sony PlayStation and Carling Homecoming have paved the way, but major firms such as Heinz, B&Q, Hewlett-Packard and BUPA have ventured into TV content creation.

AZ’s range of medicines cover cancer, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and respiratory conditions, infection and neuroscience. It spends more than £7.8m a day on R&D.

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