Delays in TV negotiation anticipated after ITV merger

LONDON - Despite ITV Sales filling two of the three positions in its next tier of management, media agencies are bracing themselves for long delays in this year's round of television negotiations.

Simon Orpin and Jeremy Lawrence have both been appointed as sales controllers, reporting to the sales director, Gary Digby, and the head of London sales, Simon Lent.

The final position has still not been filled and could be handed to an external candidate. The sales controllers will be the key traders at the merged ITV Sales and will immediately have to begin negotiations for next year.

But broadcast directors are still familiarising themselves with their options under the controversial Contract Rights Renewal process -- ITV Sales has only just sent them letters detailing their options.

The sheer volume of deals up for renegotiation could hinder things further. In anticipation of a decision on a merger, last year Carlton and Granada's sales teams negotiated only short-term deals for those agencies whose deals were coming up for renewal.

One broadcast director said he thought negotiations with ITV would only begin in earnest after 15 December when the negotiators were in place and had familiarised themselves with the deals. Usually negotiations start in October.

Traditionally, negotiations are resolved with ITV before they can be carried out with the smaller broadcasters.

Although it is usual for a stand-off to develop between ITV and some agencies, resulting in negotiations running into the New Year, delays are expected to be more widespread this time.

However, Chris Boothby, the broadcast director of Vizeum UK, claimed agencies were being pragmatic about the delays. "We would rather have it late and right, than earlier but wrong," Boothby said.

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