How should we, the foot soldiers in this grand media battle, react
to the proposed merger of UK media giants such as Carlton and United
News & Media?
There is a tendency to feel that these things go on above and beyond our
sphere of influence or relevance - as if the Michael Greens and Lord
Hollicks of this world are up in the gods and we are just playing out
their games on a stage down below.
But, forget all that Shakespearean guff for a second because this merger
- if it were to go ahead - would have a direct impact on each and every
airtime salesperson and most media planners and buyers too.
Commercial TV companies enjoy a total ad revenue of around pounds 3
billion in the UK. This income is effectively split between seven sales
points, of which Carlton and UNM are two of the largest. By reducing the
number of sales points, this merger would have a major impact on the
Even if the two companies are not allowed to break the regulatory
authority’s 25 per cent share of ad revenue rule, they would still have
an ominously powerful selling position, offering buyers a package
including Carlton, Central and Meridian.
It will not affect the negotiations for the coming season but it could
have a major impact in 2001 and 2002. Ad sales teams from a combined
Carlton UNM would seek to position the company as the first port of call
for all buyers, expecting the rest of the schedule to fit around their
Sales people everywhere could find their margin and share squeezed. Even
the Granada Media Sales team would be up against it, although the
Granada guys up in the gods will surely announce their counter-attack
strategy soon. What money a Granada bid for UNM?
But at least the foot soldiers need not start panicking about their
Although these mergers can produce ’operating efficiencies’, they rarely
trigger firings. Even the enormous US mergers between Time Warner and
Turner, and between Disney and Capital Cities/ABC have had negligible
effect on the size of their media sales teams. These mergers are all
about growing companies - and who would shrink his team of revenue
generators in a period of growth?
But all this talk of UNM and Carlton may well be nothing more than a
preamble to a bigger story. By the time Media Business lands on your
desk - this column goes to press on Wednesday - it seems inevitable that
other media groups will have stepped into the fray with their own
proposals for mergers.
Keep an eye on the papers and on your trade magazine. This isn’t job
threatening stuff, but if you’re selling airtime it will mean more than
just a new name over the door.