MEDIA ANALYSIS FORUM: Can masthead television perform at peaktime? All eyes are on the marriage of OK! TV and ITV. Will it prove fruitful, asks Alasdair Reid?
By ALASDAIR REID, campaignlive.co.uk, Monday, 06 December 1999 12:00AM
The media event of the autumn took place recently at the Asprey & Garrard jewellers, hosted by the Bill Clinton lookalike, Edward Asprey.
The media event of the autumn took place recently at the Asprey &
Garrard jewellers, hosted by the Bill Clinton lookalike, Edward
In attendance were Victoria Beckham, her son Brooklyn and Victoria’s
sister, Louise. Louise brought along her daughter, Liberty. Oh yes, and
Fiona Phillips was there too.
We know this because it was the world exclusive in last week’s OK!. But
this was no ordinary celebrity-in-a-jewellery-store scoop - history was
being made. Fiona Phillips, while undoubtedly a celebrity in her own
right, is a television presenter and her role at the event was to
interview Posh Spice for the launch show of OK! TV, the new weekly
series that kicked off on 3 December.
There have been many masthead programmes on cable and satellite this
decade, but it was only last year that the rules were relaxed to allow
publisher-sponsored programming on terrestrial commercial channels
Consumer titles had pushed hard for the new rules and many commentators
believed we’d see a flood of deals. They failed to materialise. There
have been one or two experiments - NME teamed up with Channel 4 a couple
of times and FHM forged an ill-fated relationship with Channel 5.
OK! TV is the first masthead excursion on peaktime ITV. Six half-hour
shows have been made - they will run at 8.30pm across the network on 3,
10, and 17 December, with the slots after Christmas as yet
As well as the anchor presenter Phillips, there will be celebrity
interviewers, including Nigel Havers who will talk to Sharon Stone at
her home in Beverly Hills.
Could this be the belated kickstart that masthead needs as a mainstream
opportunity? Or will OK! TV prove the exception to an increasingly
apparent rule - that when it comes to bigtime TV, the masthead sums just
don’t add up?
Possibly, admits Terry Mansfield, chief executive of the National
Magazine Company and long-term campaigner for masthead TV. He says: ’I
admire what’s been achieved by Richard Desmond (chairman of OK!’s
publisher, Northern & Shell) in taking the magazine to the screen. I
have a feeling it’s going to be very good. Richard is passionate about
magazines so he won’t allow anything substandard. Celebrities and babies
are hot material and it will make better TV than a new recipe from Good
But many observers believe the problem runs deeper than whether a
magazine’s content is TV-friendly or not. TV producers see masthead as
an extra cost, merely a tax on magazine ideas they would have stolen
anyway; while publishers insist on the added value the masthead brand
will bring to the programming, not just in ratings but in terms of the
quality of the advertising environment.
Mansfield is hopeful. He says: ’We haven’t been able to gain access to
terrestrial TV and we’re taking stock. We have experience on satellite -
114 Good Housekeeping shows and 65 for Zest - and we’ve learned a lot
from that. We are also launching a Cosmo Channel on cable in Spain and
this is a very important development for the Hearst Corporation. My big
ambition is to see the Cosmo Channel here in the UK. It would be a great
way for me to sign off.’
Many publishers agree that, if terrestrial is your main measure,
masthead TV hasn’t taken off. But Nick Ryle, the head of TV development
at IPC, maintains that peaktime ITV was never the be-all and end-all. He
says: ’It’s a question of finding the right homes for what we have to
The value for us is in developing content - not just in television.
Online activity, for instance, will be about providing a service, but it
will also be about entertainment. The combination of brand and
entertainment will be incredibly powerful. The future will be about new
opportunities like video-on-demand as well as online - perhaps the time
will come when we don’t need to think in terms of partnerships with
broadcasters at all.’
Perhaps. There are others, though, who think that the terrestrial
masthead TV story is only just beginning. A decade ago, Paul Green was
one of the pioneers of TV sponsorship: now he is the director of a
masthead specialist, Inside Broadcast. He argues that there are strong
analogies to be drawn - masthead programming is following the same
evolutionary curve as TV sponsorship.
Green says: ’When sponsorship was given the go-ahead, nothing much
happened for a while. But then we had Beamish with Inspector Morse on
peaktime ITV and suddenly everyone was talking about it. When people see
OK! TV, everyone will wake up and start asking themselves why they don’t
have masthead TV too. Like sponsorship, when it works, it works well -
as long as everyone remembers that it is a two-way street. At its best,
it is a virtuous circle. For a magazine and its readers, TV involvement
is the icing on the cake; from a TV advertising perspective, it’s
natural for advertisers who are in the magazine to go on air too.’
Tess Alps, managing director of Drum PHD, is optimistic: ’Certainly you
can argue that this is merely an indication that OK! magazine has
something it can offer to television that money alone just can’t buy -
its relationship with celebrities. But it’s also an indication that it
is possible to do a deal with ITV.
’My feeling is that we’re seeing greater realism on both sides.
Magazines, which in the past wanted to be paid by TV companies for the
use of their mastheads, are now owning up to the enormous promotional
value there may be in this - and broadcasters are clearer about the
benefits for them too. There were never going to be millions of these
deals but we are seeing a change of attitudes.’
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk
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