They seem perfect for each other. The cable operators Telewest and
ntl are reported to be approaching a merger and the speculation follows
a period of sustained flirting between the two companies.
Ntl's Stephen Carter has made no secret of his friendship with
Telewest's chief executive, Adam Singer. Carter left his role as J.
Walter Thompson's chief executive in October last year after four years
in the post to join ntl as its chief operating officer.
Credited with a huge amount of marketing insight by those who have
worked with him, Carter's departure from the agency came as no surprise
to industry watchers who said that his involvement in other sides of the
business suggested that his main interests lay outside of advertising.
Carter also persuaded Jeremy Davis, digital@JWT's managing director, to
follow him to the cable company as head of commercial content.
Former colleagues of Carter's seemed strangely unwilling to talk on the
record about his qualities but they tend to describe him as
"trustworthy", "discreet" and "sensitive". He is no pushover,
According to one source at an ntl agency, Carter could never be accused
of favouritism toward JWT. "I think he drives JWT very hard to get good
work from it. It is certainly not the easiest account to work on," he
It has been suggested that Carter is working with Telewest's managing
director, consumer division, Philip Jansen, on joint alliances between
the two companies. They both refused to talk to Campaign about their
Both men are in their mid-30s (Carter is 37 and Jansen 34) and have
experience of consumer branding in common. Carter, who quickly rose
through the ranks at JWT, studied law at Aberdeen University. Jansen was
previously the company's marketing director and was promoted to the post
of managing director of Telewest's consumer division in May last year.
Before joining Telewest in 1999, Jansen was the group marketing director
at Dunlop Slazenger, where he was part of a management buyout.
Clearly something of a tough operator at times of management shakeouts,
Jansen then landed the top marketing job at Telewest after its merger
with Flextech, fighting off the challenge of Flextech's Mike Smallwood.
Jansen's consumer marketing knowledge will be vital in driving forward
There are some strong forces pushing ntl and Telewest together, the most
recent of which was the launch of a joint marketing initiative from both
groups to promote broadband internet access.
This isn't the only time that the two companies have gone public
They jointly own the pay-per-view service FrontRow, and in May ntl put
its ad sales into Flextech, Telewest's content division. The move
created a one-stop-shop for media agencies looking to secure cable space
on behalf of their clients.
Ntl has recently announced its one millionth digital subscriber and is
on track to achieve its year-end target of 1.25 million. Telewest, the
smaller of the two fish, is clocking in with half a million digital
customers. Their combined user figures surpass those of ITV Digital,
which has 1.14 million customers.
However, Carter has acknowledged that ntl has a big problem with
customer service and customer churn and that this must be addressed.
Also, both Telewest and ntl have heavy debts - estimated to be £4.7 million and £11 million respectively.
Only this week, the Government issued renewed intentions to speed up the
take-up of digital TV services. As part of the initiative, called Go
Digital, the Government will provide digital television equipment to
households in the West Midlands for free. If there is good take-up, this
could lead to significant growth of Telewest and ntl's services.
It remains to be seen if a merger occurs but both Jansen and Carter are
clearly ambitious to grow their operations. So it's a matter of watch
this space. It makes sense for the two companies and for Carter and
Jansen to work together, but it might be a little early to go out and
buy a new hat.