Feature

CNBC's new innovator relishes the global challenge

Mick Buckley has found a fresh role after a Harvard study break, writes Ian Darby.

Taking a year out is the fashionable thing to do. While things are grim, leave the job and put your feet up for a few months or travel the Far East, hopping between sun-kissed islands and opium dens. Then return when the economic situation looks better and hefty pay rises are back on the agenda.

Mick Buckley, the new commercial director at CNBC Europe, was one of the crowd of media people to take a few months out of the industry. Except that his year or so off, after leaving his job as the UK and Ireland managing director of Turner Broadcasting, doesn't seem to have been that relaxing.

Instead of smoking scented cigarettes and going jet skiing, Buckley took himself off to Harvard Business School to complete its advanced management course, which asked a demanding 14 hours a day of its participants. Not content with this, he also became involved in the campaign to launch new football club AFC Wimbledon (he was a committed Wimbledon fan but shifted his allegiance after its decision to move to Milton Keynes) and was the executive producer of the Royal Television Society's annual conference.

Buckley, 39, is clearly a man who hates to be idle. His new role is to build the commercial side of CNBC's European operations, developing relationships with advertisers and other business partners. Having had the benefit of eight years at Turner, developing the Cartoon Network and CNN sales effort across European markets, he is now attempting to pull off the same feat for CNBC.

So what attracted him to the broadcaster, which despite its international reach and undoubted gravitas could be said to operate at the margins of the media industry? Buckley says: "Obviously CNBC is a globally focused organisation and it is backed by two such interesting international players in Dow Jones and General Electric. Its viewers are global business leaders and the investment community and it's a product that has been invested in, both in financial terms and in terms of quality over the past two years."

CNBC pulls in an audience of 5m a month across Europe, with an average salary of $150,000. This is an extremely high-end audience and Buckley says he is attracted by taking the proposition to advertisers.

And CNBC has been making some interesting headlines lately. Like other international broadcasters (including Turner and BBC World), it tends to develop greater amounts of advertiser-funded programming and sponsorship packages than domestic broadcasters. Earlier this month, the Independent Television Commission pounced on CNBC, believing that partial funding from the European Commission for a series of information programmes about the introduction of the euro contravened sponsorship regulations. The ITC is set to make a final ruling in what could be an important test case on the interpretation of the European Television Without Frontiers directive.

Buckley is involved again at the centre of such debate, having joined CNBC this week. He started his media career at the regional ITV operation TSW before moving to Carlton. But why leave ITV to join the unheralded Turner? "I did two negotiation seasons at Carlton and then it was the time that cable and satellite were gaining momentum. I wanted to get involved with an international media organisation rather than a UK one. People asked why, because at the time there was little awareness of the brands. But there was a challenge in differentiating these properties in a tough marketplace."

There is no one with a bad word to say about Buckley. Jonathan Davies, Turner's senior vice-president for the UK, Scandinavia, Middle East and Africa, says: "Mick's one of life's nice guys. He's got great personal integrity."

As well as hard work, "innovation" seems to be the attribute that Buckley most wants to bring to CNBC. He has a track record of developing new and interesting packages for advertisers. Soon after his arrival at Turner, for instance, he was instrumental in organising a partnership between Cartoon Network and Kellogg that involved specially produced commercials that fitted into the Cartoon Network environment. "We wanted to innovate in creating marketing solutions -- rather than just going out and asking for our share we decided to offer a bit more," Buckley says.

He believes international broadcasting is the place to be. "The fact is that it is more mentally stimulating when you're facing challenges across different markets."

After his whirlwind sabbatical, Buckley is ready to give CNBC all his energy. He will need plenty of it as economic and political uncertainty continue to impact on the global advertising scene.

The Buckley file

1987 TSW, sales assistant

1992 Carlton Sales, account director

1994 Cartoon Network, senior vice-president of advertising sales

1999 Turner Broadcasting, UK and Ireland managing director

2003 CNBC Europe, executive vice-president and commercial director