Media: Double Standards - Prison Break and Lost show we mean business

Five and Sky compete for similar audiences and, as the trading season hots up, two sales directors talk technology, planning and programmes.

JOHN LITSTER - DIRECTOR OF TRADING, SKY MEDIA

- How closely do you work with your programming department?

We have very close links to all of Sky's programming and acquisition teams. At Sky Media, we sell commercial opportunities across 56 channels and 130 websites. This makes working closely with programmers a challenging, but essential task. The real beauty of the relationship is that if a programme is a rip-roaring success, then Sky Media and programming share the plaudits. But if it dies a death, it was a completely Osterley-led decision.

- What do you enjoy most about the trading season?

The bonhomie and openness.

- What do you offer advertisers that they can't find on rival channels?

The TV landscape is changing at such a pace that, without intelligent and actionable insights, the task of navigating this uncharted territory is daunting. As probably the most significant "change agent", Sky has committed enormous resource to deriving those insights - anyone in doubt about this should ask us about SkyView. It's changing media strategies as we speak.

- What has been the most exciting development at your company this year?

HDTV or Sky Broadband or Sky by Mobile ... can't decide.

- Does your sales force have a planning team?

We encourage all agency-facing personnel to engage with planners, and the entire team of 220 are invited to work on the briefs we receive via our Innov8 scheme. In addition, we have a team of commercial partnerships controllers that work with planners and advertisers.

- Which TV show in your winter schedule are you most excited about and why?

Lost. Its acquisition says a lot to viewers about where we are taking Sky One.

- Describe your style of negotiation

Mild-mannered, considered and charming.

- Is the Contract Rights Renewal mechanism working?

Depends on who you ask. Broadly speaking, money will always follow audience. CRR is simply a trading tool that enables clients to take money out of a high-cost supplier and re-spend it more cost-effectively elsewhere. You can understand, therefore, why if a client could buy the same weight of activity for 5 per cent less cash, then they would.

- What is the hardest challenge about working in TV at the moment?

TV is in a position where procurement departments and auditors are cost-focused to the degree that they pressure agencies and, indeed, remunerate them in driving value via cost reduction. TV companies would prefer clients to focus on effective, as well as efficient, advertising.

- Which media agency TV chief impresses you the most and why?

Ask me on 24 December. I think they're all great at the moment.

- Have you got any interesting hobbies? Plate-spinning.

KELLY WILLIAMS - EXECUTIVE SALES DIRECTOR, FIVE

- How closely do you work with your programming department?

They're all over us like cheap suits. A floor apart in a small building. They consult with us, we consult with them. Daily. Don't forget, we're almost 100 per cent reliant on advertising revenue. It's integration so total that nobody even notices it. In fact, we're so integrated these days, it borders on unhygienic.

- What do you enjoy most about the trading season?

I suppose the obvious answer is "the day after it's finished", but while you hate it at the time, there is genuine satisfaction in finally coming to mutually agreeable terms with a respected protagonist - following the traditionally full and frank exchange of personal insults, of course.

- What do you offer advertisers that they can't find on rival channels?

Accountability and speed, allied to a genuinely flexible approach to business. Five remains an extraordinarily lean set-up, so to deliver the key people round a table - and quickly - is our stock-in-trade.

- What has been the most exciting development at your company this year?

That would have to be a tie between launching two new channels, of which we are immensely proud, and achieving three hospitalisations (all better now, thanks) as a result of an unusually lively sales conference.

- Does your sales force have a planning team?

We'll be watching developments at ITV closely, but for the moment we remain convinced that our current departmental structure provides the most fulfilling roles for our people, while delivering the quality and breadth of service that agencies and advertisers demand.

- Which TV show in your winter schedule are you most excited about and why?

The return of Prison Break. No question. The very definition of "appointment to view", and now ready to really break through in audience terms.

- Describe your style of negotiation

I am a great believer in the saying "what goes around, comes around", so I think it's very important to negotiate a deal that leaves both parties happy with the outcome.

- Is the Contract Rights Renewal mechanism working?

The question shouldn't really be whether CRR's working - that's surely beyond dispute - but whether it's working hard enough. Three years on and ITV still takes more than 47 per cent of revenue, unquestionably driven by its dominant position in the market.

- What is the hardest challenge about working in TV at the moment?

The speed of technological innovation in the industry is absolutely terrifying, but on balance I'd have to say hair retention still poses my toughest personal challenge.

- Which media agency TV chief impresses you the most and why?

I think they all have their strengths, but if I had to single anybody out for special mention, I'd have to admit Chris Hayward's current hairstyle is enormously impressive.

- Have you got any interesting hobbies? Yes, sleep deprivation. It's a terrific hobby in which all the family can participate. I thoroughly recommend it, as does my son, Joseph (three months).

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Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).