MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE - Is United’s demise proof that papers and TV do not gel?

By CLAIRE BEALE, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 04 August 2000 12:00AM

As the knuckles cracked across TV land last weekend and aggressive mission statements jostled with proclamations of bigger, brighter futures, the paper boys and girls may have felt a little left out - at least those down at Express Newspapers.

As the knuckles cracked across TV land last weekend and aggressive

mission statements jostled with proclamations of bigger, brighter

futures, the paper boys and girls may have felt a little left out - at

least those down at Express Newspapers.



Now that United News & Media has sold off its ITV stations to Granada, a

somewhat pathetic Commonwealth of eclectic assets is all that remains of

Clive Hollick’s empire, and Express Newspapers looks increasingly

marginalised.



Yet it was not so long ago that United had positioned itself as a

cross-media company, with a sweep of investments that could work

together to share editorial information, market data, consumer research,

sales nous and, crucially, advertisers. But United never really cracked

the whole cross-media thing.



The truth is that, four years after the rules on cross-media ownership

were established, no company has run with the opportunity, particularly

when it comes to combining the mighty powers of broadcast and print

products.



Associated Newspapers has had some success with its radio interests

(through its stake in GWR), but it doesn’t offer an integrated package

Emap has made headway in bringing together its radio, TV and magazine

divisions (aided by common, niche target audiences) and Scottish Media

Group has a wide portfolio of media brands, but as yet no clear

integrated positioning for them. Competition rather than co-operation

rules within News Corporation (though the papers still peddle the joys

of satellite TV).



It’s interesting that Charles Allen, Granada’s triumphant chief

executive, last week told the City that he would be keen to expand into

other media such as magazines and radio when the existing cross-media

ownership rules are relaxed: newspapers were notable by their absence

from his list of target media.



Owning editorial is one thing, exploiting that across very different

platforms (and very different business fiefdoms) is another. And the ad

sales efficiencies pose a massive challenge. Even if advertisers and

agencies were geared up for a one-stop shop for cross-media buying,

trying to persuade press sales chiefs to swing some of their revenue to

their TV counterparts and vice versa, it would require a wholesale

rethink of remuneration packages and sales approaches. With smaller

media like radio, such territorial battles are less obtrusive.



Yet with ITV consolidation now hurtling to its conclusion, the arguments

for a more relaxed regulatory approach to cross-media ownership are hard

to ignore. As the Government prepares to address the issue in the new

Broadcasting Act, it seems inevitable that fewer, bigger media players

will emerge. Yet United has proved that the cross-media press and TV

combine is not the panacea it once seemed.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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