The decision by Britain's ITV Network to move its under-performing new soccer showpiece, The Premiership (Premier League match highlights) from its former prime time slot to the night-owl niche of 10.30, has resulted in a major price reduction in Coca-Cola’s £50 million sponsorship.

Saturday's show, the last at the earlier time, attracted only 4.6m viewers – one million less than base. But ITV insiders claim they do not expect the move to the later slot to result in any significant decrease in viewing. “At 10.30 we will be back to the core football audience,” said an executive.

Insiders claim that Coke knew before signing the contract that the primetime slot could not be guaranteed on an ongoing basis and accordingly negotiated two deals – one for a 7.00 early evening show, another for a later timing. The beverage behemoth will now invoke the second contract.

Says a Coke spoke: “We were aware there might be two schedules and so we looked at two price levels. Now we'll revert to the second level.” The company will continue with its Premiership-oriented ads featuring the families of famous footballers.

Clearly not wanting to rock ITV’s already listing boat, Coke added: “We are still confident and supportive of ITV's programming and ability to deliver the right kind of footballing programme. The price reflects the value of the audience we'll reach and we still feel we've got a great value sponsorship at both levels.”

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