MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: A Telewest buyout could be saviour of IPC digital content

When Time Warner and AOL revealed their ground-breaking merger at the beginning of the year, IPC’s chairman, David Arculus, and its chief executive, Sly Bailey, must have rubbed their hands together with glee.

When Time Warner and AOL revealed their ground-breaking merger at

the beginning of the year, IPC’s chairman, David Arculus, and its chief

executive, Sly Bailey, must have rubbed their hands together with

glee.



With the digital age hallmarking the value of content, IPC’s 1998

management buyout figure of pounds 860 million looked more than

palatable.



Until the Time Warner/AOL merger, IPC had to bat away growing criticism

that its investors had paid pounds 150 million more than they should

have. The fall in IPC’s full year pre-tax profits at the end of 1999

didn’t help matters. But with a portfolio of 97 titles and just under a

quarter of the UK’s consumer magazine market, IPC is changing from being

a sluggish fat cat in the investment arena to being a lithe one with

much more potential.



News of Telewest’s interest in IPC has come hot on the heels of the

rumours of Yahoo! and Freeserve making buyout approaches to the UK media

group Emap.



If any wringing of hands took place within Cinven (IPC’s investors) over

the original buyout deal, fingers must now be confidently poised over

the calculators.



There are, of course, other big media names in the frame for a potential

IPC takeover (Bertelsmann and Hachette being two) but Telewest could be

IPC’s knight in shining armour, successfully shunting it into the 21st

century.



Until now, I have watched IPC’s digital arm, IPC Electric, with growing

unease. While websites such as NME.com and UpLoaded have been

successfully launched within the main group, IPC Electric’s birth has

been laboured and painful. It has seen a number of high-profile

departures and so far its only fruit has been the women’s portal

BeMe.com.



Broadly speaking, the UK is still trying to grasp the difference between

new-media content and printed editorial. I suspect that within IPC there

are editors/ managers who are resistant to the forces of new media,

seeing them as potentially competitive while they still want to maintain

control over the online brand, even if they haven’t got a clue how the

new-media market works.



Telewest has the tools to ensure that IPC’s content is used in the most

efficient way possible in a multi-platform media environment.



As the new owner it would also have no sentimentality in knocking

dissenting voices. IPC’s strongest titles would have access to masthead

TV, an area which has hitherto been disappointing. Telewest has taken

the lead in the UK market for broadband services, launching high-speed

cable and interactive services, and it would provide valuable

technological nous as well as a clear idea of where IPC’s content should

sit.



A marriage between Telewest and IPC could support a strong, influential

and multi-faceted family.





anna.griffiths@haynet.com.



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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).