Feature

Media: Double Standards - Why Contract Rights Renewal is like DaleWinton

Two sales chiefs from commercial television on CRR, how they clinch a deal and how they believe broadcasters are coping in the multichannel age.

MATT SHREEVE HEAD OF AGENCY SALES, CHANNEL 4

- Do you enjoy the annual trading season?

Yes.

- Who do you look forward to negotiating with?

I most look forward to negotiating with those who want to do something positive, challenging and exciting, even though I know I'm a sucker for this approach.

- How has the introduction of Contract Rights Renewal affected negotiations?

In a year where 4 to 5 percentage points are dropping out of ITV1, the effect is quite profound. However, rather like Dale Winton, CRR is a feature of the TV landscape. Many people might wish that either Mr Winton wasn't there at all or the reasons why he turned up in the first place had never happened. In the end, we just have to get on with it.

- How necessary is Ofcom's decision to review the trading regulations?

Until I see the actual scope and form of the review, it's difficult to comment. I can say that we do not feel threatened by the prospect, as our approach is consistent with all our trading partners, large or small, with the fullest transparency.

- What is your style of negotiation? How do you clinch a deal?

Naturally, stating one's case is hugely important, but I'm not the greatest fan of extended displays of rival plumage. I try to avoid situations where the obvious differences between my aunt and uncle become the issue of prolonged debate, as this can detract from progress. The most important thing to do is to listen. The next most important thing is to understand. Then find the common ground. And if you want to clinch a deal, don't be a pedant.

- What makes a good salesman?

Having a good product to sell really helps! So does being part of a strong and focused team. Apart from that, it's pretty obvious really. The ability to communicate your proposition at the right moment in a way that is relevant, logical and user-friendly.

- How well are broadcasters coping with the dawn of the multichannel age and the fragmentation of TV audiences?

This varies considerably. With some, the issue still resides in the "too difficult" tray. With others, it's full steam ahead. But it is a tricky course for all concerned. Nobody was ever any richer by taking a fiver out of one pocket and putting it in the other. At Channel 4 we are blessed with the strongest ability to steer audiences through our channels by having the clearest branded proposition to viewers. We can move young and upmarket viewers around our channels without cannibalising viewer share.

- What have your biggest programme successes been this year?

I guess this depends on your success criteria. Desperate Housewives and Lost have been great US acquisitions. Winning ten Baftas was great, not least because it attracts the best talent to Channel 4. My personal favourite was Jamie's School Dinners, which really broke through on many levels.

- What is your favourite programme?

Little Britain. Wish it was ours, but you can't win them all.

- How do you unwind outside of work?

Enjoying the wonder years of Charlton Athletic being in the Premiership, the occasional bottle of light ale, time with my kids, watching innovative TV programmes ... and of course spending time with my very lovely girlfriend.

SIMON LENT - SALES DIRECTOR, ITV

- Do you enjoy the annual trading season?

Yes, strangely enough it's a key part of my role, so I probably should be doing something else if I didn't!

- Who do you look forward to negotiating with?

There are many varied and interesting characters to deal with at this time of the year. Obviously I like dealing with the ones who will commit the most with me for the least amount of hassle. Unfortunately, the list is quite short!

- How has the introduction of Contract Rights Renewal affected negotiations?

All of our deal offers and procedures are governed by the undertakings. We strictly adhere to them.

- How necessary is Ofcom's decision to review the trading regulations?

Ofcom have indicated that they may undertake a market review in 2006. It is not for us to give an opinion as to whether it's necessary or not, that is for Ofcom to decide. We will obviously co-operate fully if we are required to do so.

- What is your style of negotiation? How do you clinch a deal?

Negotiation style will depend on who you are dealing with and the situation. I would hope I could adapt my style accordingly. I guess the key to clinching the deal is knowing when to say yes, which leaves you and the buyer with a feeling that you've both got something positive out of the deal.

- What makes a good salesman?

First, you need to know your product inside out and the market you sell in. Also know as much about your clients' business as possible and what they are trying to achieve. Be a good listener, make proposals and try not to argue. Know when to say yes and when to say no and, above all, don't be afraid to make the odd wrong decision.

- How well are broadcasters coping with the dawn of the multichannel age and the fragmentation of TV audiences?

This is a key challenge for terrestrial broadcasters. From ITV's point of view, it is key that Freeview continues to drive forward digital penetration - having quality channels on the platform is crucial to its success. We believe we have a compelling proposition with our library of strong content and the ability to cross-promote from mass audiences on ITV1. It's also great news that Channel 4 has launched E4 and More4 on to Freeview.

- What have your biggest programme successes been this year?

ITV1 has had some great successes to date this autumn with The X Factor, Vincent, Afterlife, Ant & Dec's Gameshow Marathon and the one-off dramas Cold Blood and Trial and Retribution. On ITV2, Footballers' Wives Xtra achieved more than two million, while Peter & Jordan and Hell's Kitchen USA rated more than one million viewers.

- What is your favourite programme?

The X Factor. It's fantastic, I love watching it with my daughters Amy and Grace, who are massive fans.

- How do you unwind outside of work?

I like to go to the gym whenever I get the time, I enjoy attending live sport, particularly rugby. Keeping and drinking fine wine, but above all spending quality time with my family.