Advertisers get a raw deal over ITV

When Gerry Robinson made headlines with his prophecy that ITV would one day be controlled by a single monster company, many executives will have sat back in not-in-my-lifetime smugness. But the startling speed with which the structure of ITV has since changed has yanked Robinson’s pie out of the sky and it is now about to be carved up by just two ITV companies.

When Gerry Robinson made headlines with his prophecy that ITV would

one day be controlled by a single monster company, many executives will

have sat back in not-in-my-lifetime smugness. But the startling speed

with which the structure of ITV has since changed has yanked Robinson’s

pie out of the sky and it is now about to be carved up by just two ITV

companies.



Trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers last week took a wise,

long-term view on the issue of ITV ownership and sanctioned the merger

of two ITV companies, heralding the emergence of a stronger, fitter UK

media player. But what’s good for UK media is not, at this stage, good

for UK advertisers. Byers has sold the advertising community very

short.



In an attempt to assuage the fierce opposition to consolidation which

has been voiced by advertisers over the past few months, Byers has ruled

that no one ITV company can control more than two of the four ITV

licences that are most appealing to advertisers - Carlton, Central,

Meridian and LWT. But surely such a rule simply displays a serious

naivety about the internal politics of ITV and the nous of the ITV sales

chiefs.



The three existing ITV sales houses have already demonstrated their

willingness to work together to form a more united front against

advertisers; it is not so long ago that the advertising community was up

in arms over suggestions that the sales houses were co-operating on a

share-of-broadcast sales policy to strong-arm advertisers into

committing more money to the ITV network.



When there are just two ITV companies fighting side by side against

those rival channels that are encroaching on their audience and

advertising share, such sales co-operation will be even more crucial.

And even more difficult for advertisers to counter.



Of course, advertisers don’t have to use ITV. But two sales houses

working together to protect ITV’s advertising revenue base could prove a

poisonous pact against advertisers which Byers has failed to

acknowledge.



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