ITV sales houses were accused this week of selling airtime for
children’s ITV on a national basis, in what many agencies fear could be
the beginnings of a joint network sell-off of all off-peak airtime.
Individual ITV sales houses have been touting CITV, which runs from 4pm
to 5pm on weekdays, to agencies representing toy retailers and
manufacturers. The move is seen as a bid to fill the void left by
Procter and Gamble’s huge reductions in daytime media spend (Campaign,
ITV is barred from signing network-wide airtime deals under current
legislation, which stipulates that the three ITV sales houses are each
allowed to control up to 25 per cent of total TV revenue.
Although no deals of this nature have been offered yet, agencies say
sales pitches made in recent weeks have focused on the use of the
network, and involved the proposal of a putative network price.
Martin Bowley, the managing director of Carlton UK Sales, did not deny
selling the benefits of the ITV network to agencies, but stated that no
rules had been broken. ‘We are pointing out the benefits of using CITV
nationally, but one must not confuse that with a network deal.’ The
Independent Television Commission, which was alerted to the situation by
‘a competitor’, has accepted ITV’s assurances.
Buyers say an average network price is being touted that is 25 per cent
lower than GMTV, which relies on the toy market for 28 per cent of its
revenue. Clive Crouch, the sales director of GMTV, has called on the ITC
ITV is thought to be keen to further the cause of a network sell for all
off-peak airtime. One buyer commented: ‘Next, there will be arguments
for post-peak [after 10.30pm] and coffee time [9.30am to 1pm] to be sold
nationally. This could be the thin end of the wedge.’