The broadcaster plans to launch a video-on-demand and broadband download service later this year and has kicked off a consumer research blitz to find out how much viewers are prepared to pay to download shows after they have played on television.
The research, being conducted by four separate agencies, covers a price range of 29p to £1.49. The results will be ready by mid-September, with a decision being put to the C4 board for sign off shortly after.
The emerging industry norm for TV downloads is 99p for non-film premium content. However, C4 is considering undercutting this price to match the 79p that iTunes charges for an individual song download. The price could go as low as 49p, indie sources have been told. Films are expected to be priced between £1.50 and £3.50.
Broadcasthas learned C4 will reject the Apple policy of charging the same price for all content. 'We're going to be informed by consumers on this,' a C4 insider said. 'But you cannot price everything in the same way. Some types of programming will command a higher price than others.'
A free advertising model is also being tested but is not C4's preferred option. Instead, the service will have a number of price points. The research will determine how to group content - whether by genre, age, length or day part - and how many different prices can be offered before consumers become confused.
The broadcaster believes its high quality dramas will have more value than daytime shows such as Richard and Judythat date quickly. Indies are likely to lobby for their programming to be included in the higher price bracket, as they share revenues from the downloads with C4.
US acquisitions and movies offered through the planned Film4 download service are likely to be priced differently as they are not covered by the new media rights deal recently struck with Pact.
Flextech has been the only UK broadcaster to launch a comprehensive online download service, charging £2.50 for UK shows it commissions but only 99p for US acquisitions.
C4's only shows currently available to download are Desperate Housewivesand Lostfor 99p, via a deal struck with Disney.