LONDON: Channel 4, the UK commercial broadcaster, has launched a new initiative that will see it offer "high growth potential companies" access to its advertising inventory in exchange for equity stakes or revenue share arrangements.

To extend the network of new business opportunities available to the Commercial Growth Fund, Channel 4 has also partnered with SevenVentures, the investment arm of Germany's largest TV network ProSiebenSat.1 Media, which has itself just reorganised its own support program for start-ups.

On-demand audio service Deezer is the first business to team up with the Fund and from this autumn will produce promotional content tailored to Channel 4's platforms.

"This is an important time of growth for the streaming industry as a whole, and working with the Commercial Growth Fund means we stay at the forefront of innovation," said Christian Harris, MD for UK & Ireland at Deezer.

Channel 4 said it expected to build a varied portfolio of selected companies which shared its ambition for creative innovation and to enable these businesses to leverage the value of its core young and upmarket audience.

It is already in advanced talks with three or four other brands, according to commercial director Jonathan Allan, and could sign contracts with up to ten by the end of the year.

"Exposure to television audiences can have a dramatic effect on start-ups and second stage brands but many don't have access to huge amounts of cash and miss out on TV to focus on cheaper search engine ads," he told Marketing Week.

"This is like being a Dragon's Den or venture capitalist fund for marketing as these are quite complex deals and involve setting serious sales targets," he added.

And he stressed that "our air time is valuable and we won't open this up to any brand". But if a brand was successful as a result "we will stick with them and open them up to our contacts book to the creative industries".

Data sourced from Channel 4, Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff