Carlton is transferring its sales clout into the cable sector, Alasdair
Can ITV sales companies sell cable? Are they good for the medium?
Carlton UK Sales obviously thinks so. Last week it picked up contracts
for two cable stations - a juke-box music video station, the Box, and
the Travel Channel.
Carlton’s romance with cable began in January, when it acquired the
SelecTV channel. The sales operation it set up for SelecTV promptly won
the Live TV contract and it is also believed to be in talks with other
channels. Carlton seems determined to emerge as a major player in this
It has set up a specialist division, Carlton Cable and Satellite Sales.
With a staff of eight, it is still relatively small but, as its sales
director, David Sanderson, points out, it can plug into the resources of
its big brother.
‘We have access to a 40-strong research department and there are 15
people selling ITV who generate leads and give information we can react
to,’ he explains. ‘We know what’s coming up in campaign terms and we can
be closer to the planning phase in those campaigns. The problem for
cable in the past is that it has been a headache for agencies to book
such small channels. We can remove that confusion.’
No-one doubts the resources of Carlton UK Sales - especially its
research expertise - will become an increasingly important issue in
cable when the special Barb panel comes on line later this year. But are
ITV sales operations are notoriously bad at selling. Traditionally,
demand has far outstripped supply and the top ITV sales people have
concentrated on allocating airtime to clients in as fair a way as
possible while making sure they keep their books balanced.
Cable is a very different game indeed. It’s a buyers’ market and it
could be argued that the patrician approach adopted by many within ITV
will cut little ice. Sanderson argues that ITV has an enviable track
record in selling minority interest programming, but rival operations
say it isn’t that simple.
Richard Burdett, the vice-president of advertising sales for United
Artists Programming, has no doubts that Carlton is a powerful new force
in cable, but he suggests that to succeed the company will have to rise
to a number of challenges. ‘How it attempts to bring clients from
terrestrial to non-terrestrial television is crucial,’ he says. ‘Cable
and satellite channels have to be sold to clients. They require high
levels of servicing from experienced sales people.
‘The distribution that Carlton gets for its channels is vital. It
doesn’t matter how powerful your sales organisation is, you still need
ratings to sell. Otherwise all that’s left is the favours market and
that’s increasingly a thing of the past.’
Simon Cox, the broadcast director of CIA Medianetwork, says that Carlton
is good for cable and he hopes it picks up more stations. ‘Anything that
makes the cable sale less confusing is a good thing,’ he maintains. ‘It
is better to see one guy that has 5 per cent of the market than five
people who have a 1 per cent sell. Carlton understands the market.’
But perhaps all of this is rather academic. The bottom line surely is
that Carlton will be able to use its weight in the broadcast market as a
whole to twist a few arms at the big buying points.
Sanderson doesn’t see it that way. ‘Carlton Communications holds yearly
presentations on what is happening in the communications world and that
will obviously address how we see cable fitting into people’s plans,’ he
says. ‘We hope that agencies will listen to our views. But arm twisting
doesn’t work. Cable has to be sold on its merits.’
Cox agrees: ‘Conditional selling is a non-starter, especially where big
buying points are concerned.’