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
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
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
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
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
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
Who is the most feared person in the industry?
Meeting Carat's Ray Kelly in his summer lederhosen is a terrifying
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
Where's the best place to meet clients?
Anyone talks to clients anywhere
What is the biggest single issue facing Europe's media industry?