Media Perspective: Why Desmond may have arrived at Five at just the right time

The predictions were almost correct this time around. The summer of 2010 has been a lively period of change in the commercial TV market.

Not that many were predicting, a few months ago, that Richard Desmond would be the new owner of the broadcaster Five. But there he was, last Friday evening, appearing on Five's very own Live From Studio Five to talk up the £103.5 million deal.

Already media is a livelier place: early reports revealed the highly camp scenario of Desmond leading the Northern & Shell boardroom in a singsong of a Carpenters tune.

Then Dawn Airey, who, for the time being at least, is staying as Five's chief executive, issued a statement that appeared to set herself and Desmond up as some sort of media equivalent of a wrestling tag team. "We both want to win and that's precisely what we're going to do," an "upbeat" Airey declared.

And I can't see why advertisers should worry about all this posturing. Desmond has promised greater investment and leadership and though this seems staggering from a man with his reputation for cost-cutting, he probably has no other alternative - Five surely cannot be cut closer to the bone than it already is.

But the deal will only make sense if Desmond has some sort of cross-media commercial operation up his sleeve. The indications are that he's not keen to be "bullied" by rival broadcasters and agencies (and with the Northern & Shell joint managing director Stan Myerson by his side, how likely is this to happen?). Yet Desmond will need clout to make a profit out of Five's meagre share of TV ad revenues.

Some analysts have been scathing about his chances, arguing Five will receive another kicking in this autumn's trading season and that agencies won't be interested in joint deals with his other media interests (OK!, the Daily Star etc) as TV is traded so separately. However, this view fails to take into account early signs that the model might be changing.

Rupert Murdoch's News International has raised the prospect of introducing a TV-style cost-per-thousand model in print. What's to stop Desmond looking at doing the same? He doesn't have NI's clout but then packaging OK! magazine with Home & Away in a handy deal for agencies that are increasingly structured to buy such an integrated package would make sense.

It might not happen in time for this trading season, but with a move towards cross-media deals and the possible introduction of a TV model in print, plus the likes of Project Canvas likely to change the very nature of TV advertising, Desmond's timing could be impeccable. But he'll need to spend a fair chunk of his £1 billion fortune if he's to turn it around.

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