EUROPEAN MEDIA: UK - Trying times. A touch of Glamour has added sparkle in an eventful year for media in the UK, Pippa Considine reports

We've not yet reached the end of the year, but 2001 has already

seen plenty of activity on the UK media front. As America sneezed over

its new-media business, the UK has caught a large dose of the cold. But

the story so far this year isn't all about downturn and it's not all

doom and gloom on these islands.



One of the biggest moves this year is down to another Transatlantic

force, in the shape of the media giant AOL Time Warner and its deal to

take over the UK publishing house IPC. It's early days, but there's

plenty of speculation about what might come of the change of

ownership.



Grant Millar, the media strategy manager at BT, welcomes the trend he

calls "mega media consolidation". He says: "The consolidation of media

brands across media - especially interactive - enables BT to form major

cross-platform deals." Nick Theakstone, the joint deputy managing

director at the media agency MediaVest, thinks the buy-out will have

"huge implications for all the main publishers", resulting in a squeeze

out of the market.



Across the way at the rival publisher Conde Nast, Nicholas Coleridge,

its managing director, is less excited by the deal. "It's the same

management. It might have slightly deeper pockets, but there are more

than 90 titles and it will have to spread it very thinly. It's

interesting, but not cataclysmically interesting," he says.



He's looking more closely at whether Emap will stay together. The media

company has been through trying times and recently sold its US

interests, losing a good deal of money in the process. "It needs to pull

a couple of aces out of the hat," Coleridge says.



Conde Nast can afford to be a little smug this year after the runaway

success of Glamour, the title it launched at the start of the year and

which is already jostling with Cosmopolitan for the top position in the

women's lifestyle magazine market.



While glossy titles are perhaps least likely to be affected by

recession, mainstream TV stations are out in the cold. ITV has certainly

had a bit of an annus horribilis. Its revenues are deep in the doldrums

with a year-on-year deficit of $245 million, according to figures

from the media agency Optimedia. Theakstone thinks that they will

continue down for the next 12 months, selling at 96-97 prices through

2002.



Added to that financial body blow are ITV's digital wounds. Its

terrestrial digital offering, ONdigital, backed by the constituent ITV

companies Granada and Carlton, is way off beam and has been rebranded

this year as ITV Digital. At Zenith WorldWide, the chairman, John

Perriss, has severe doubts about its future health: "Personally, I would

be amazed if ITV Digital is around in the next 12 months."



Although the Government is committed to ensuring that there is no

digital monopoly and cable has still not really taken off in the UK,

Sky's digital satellite has stolen a march.



Meanwhile, ITV is developing its digital channels, ITV 2 and ITV

Sport.



Earlier this year it paid $256 million for rights to the

Premiership football highlights, taking them over from the BBC, but it

may have encountered UK soccer ennui with its first primetime

Premiership highlights programme. Scheduled to capture large Saturday

night audiences, it has performed way below par on its first few

outings.



Channel 4 is also working away at its digital channels, but seems to be

having more success in the new-media era. January this year saw the

launch of the entertainment channel E4 and there's also been the

reorganisation of Channel 4's other interests under the banner 4

Ventures, which include everything apart from the core Channel 4. Some

believe that it's being savvy in its approach, trying, for example, to

run must-see programmes, such as the first-runs of Friends, on the

digital channel before on Channel 4. Others are sceptical, waiting to

see if the channel's investment of £350 million in various

activities will actually pay off.



According to David Brook, Channel 4's director of strategy and

development, the next few months are about nesting down. "We've got to

consolidate what we've achieved so far. There are opportunities, but

it's not necessarily about new channels." He talks about "enhanced and

extended viewing" and, as an example, points to the interest created by

the interactive voting element to the Channel 4 hit show Big

Brother.



Brook predicts that the icy winds of recession will probably hasten a

few channels on their way to the wall. "It's going to be the

middle-range channels that get squeezed," he says.



Meanwhile, Perriss is looking closer to home. So far this year

Interpublic has scheduled Initiative Media and Universal McCann to join

up in the UK as part of Magna Global, a combined media buying unit, and

Publicis has acquired control of Zenith, which will merge at some level

with Optimedia. With further advertising agency consolidation will come

the inevitable downsizing. "If ad spending is down, then agency income

is down. I think, sadly, that a lot more people will be squeezed out of

the industry," Perriss says.



ROY JEANS - COO, UK & EIRE, INITIATIVE MEDIA



What is the brand with the most influence in your country?



The Daily Mail, the centre-right newspaper that sets the political

agenda - even for the New Labour government



What has been the most talked-about campaign this year?



Royal & Sun Alliance's "where's Lucky?" campaign (below)



What's been the biggest surprise hit on TV this year?



Popstars, which came from nowhere



What's the latest must-read marketing book?



E by Matt Beaumont - a trip down memory lane



Who are the best media sales team in the country?



Most media sales companies negotiate, not sell. Over the past six months

The Independent has tried hardest to sell its product



Which media personality gets the most column inches?



It's got to be either Sir Martin Sorrell or Sir Frank Lowe (only knights

need apply)



Who is the most feared person in the industry?



Meeting Carat's Ray Kelly in his summer lederhosen is a terrifying

thought



What's the biggest media party of the year?



The Regional Press Club's Christmas lunch. 1,200 people raising serious

money for charity. Starts at 11.30 am and finishes the following

morning



Where's the best place to meet clients?



Anyone talks to clients anywhere



What is the biggest single issue facing Europe's media industry?



Recession.



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