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.
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
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
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