MTV, the station that reinvented the way we consume television when it launched in the 80s, now reaches more people worldwide than any other TV network. Having launched its hundredth channel in February, the Viacom-owned brand goes out across 164 territories, with a potential audience of one billion people.
Dave Sibley, the head of MTV's international marketing partnerships group, puts its success down to effective localisation, "combined with risk-taking, innovative, creative content and a commitment to maintaining a strong connection with the young and young-minded". Its international marketing partnerships group is set up to sell locally or globally.
In second spot is CNN, the inventor of the non-stop news concept copied by many, but matched by none in terms of global reach. There are ten CNN TV networks and services internationally and a total of 25 brand extensions.
"People have a thirst to be connected to the outside world - it's what we're designed for," Jonathan Davies, the senior vice-president of CNN International's ad sales, EMEA, says. "We started 25 years ago with a vision of creating a global network." All CNN sales offices sell global campaigns.
The BBC's international television arm launched in 1991 as BBC World Service Television to serve Asia and the Middle East, but later became what we now know as BBC World, which celebrated its tenth birthday in January. CNN's key non-stop news competitor is available in 200 territories worldwide. With the slogan "putting news first", its strategy and sales operation director, Colin Lawrence, says that for advertisers, it offers "the most influential and affluent audience in the world, combined with the brand values of trust and authority". Global campaigns can be bought from any of ten sales offices across the world.
The global documentary broadcaster that is Discovery Networks International started life in 1985 with 156,000 subscribers in the US. Twenty years on, after a hugely successful growth strategy, Discovery now beams into more than 160 countries with 12 television brands and boasts a total of 1.2 billion subscribers.
Discovery Europe's senior vice-president of sales, Annie Rogers, says its strength as a brand is that it "speaks to a natural curiosity of people around the world" through carefully localised content. It has local ad sales offices worldwide and global campaigns are handled on a client-by-client basis.
News Corporation's Star is the foremost pan-Asian TV brand, with the emerging economic powerhouses China and India as its biggest markets.
Nick Thind, the vice-president of Star Europe, says: "No other network can offer a reach of more than 300 million viewers throughout some of the world's most developed and fastest-growing economies." Global sales can be co-ordinated through the European office.
TOP FIVE GLOBAL TV NETWORKS
TV network Households worldwide
BBC World 258
Source: individual networks.
MSN is, unsurprisingly, Mr Big in the online world. Drawing on Microsoft's 30-odd years of software experience (and the deep pockets of Bill Gates, who has waited patiently for his "consumer interface" to become profitable), it offers a consumer portal in 40 markets and 20 languages.
"Localisation is a key factor in MSN's success," Geoff Sutton, the regional general manager, Europe, for MSN, says. There are local sales teams in each market and MSN offers pan-regional deals to a growing number of international advertisers.
Like Xerox, Hoover and Tip-Ex before it, Google has proved so popular that it is now an accepted verb ("to Google"). The company that started in a Stanford University dorm room in 1998 floated on the New York Stock Exchange for $4.35 billion this year.
That it is the automatic choice for web searches can partly be put down to its original technology. "It has a very scaleable platform, which allowed it to expand quickly," Google's European marketing director, Lorraine Twohill, says. It has 20 sales offices across the world and global campaigns are co-ordinated by the relevant local office.
Also the brainchild of a pair of Stanford grads is Yahoo!, one of the first web companies to go public when it floated in 1996 (its share price rocketed from $13 to $33 on the first day). Yahoo! now comes in 18 languages in more than 20 territories, but why has it flourished? According to Yahoo!'s commercial director, UK and Ireland, Alison Reay, "it was one of the first brands online", plus it acted speedily to establish outside the US.
It has an international sales team based in California that co-ordinates global campaigns, drawing on know-how from its regional operations dotted around the world.
AOL's great coup actually was not its dramatic swoop for Time Warner back in 2000, despite the apparent bravery and progressiveness of the $160 billion deal at the time. AOL's biggest move was to ask a generation of internet users weaned on free information and services to start paying for content. In this respect, AOL was a pioneer for the internet content providers struggling to find ways to keep their heads above the water.
Mike Moore, the vice-president of commercial development at AOL Europe, believes that for advertisers, "the appeal of AOL is our quality of audience and the level of engagement we achieve with our subscribers". Local adaptation, he says, is key to AOL's success, along with innovation, ease of use and quality customer services. Its European interactive marketing operation works closely with the US on global deals.
Lycos, a search engine brand four years Google's senior, having launched in 1994, is split into three different operations worldwide: Lycos Asia; Lycos Inc in the US and Lycos Europe. Each exists separately from the other, sharing branding but not sales. Lycos Europe is emphatic about the need to innovate to be successful.
TOP FIVE GLOBAL WEBSITES
Website Unique users Active reach
MSN 165,772 61
Google 146,443 52
Yahoo! 145,427 51
AOL 101,056 36
Lycos 31,163 11
Reader's Digest enjoys an almost embarrassing lead as the world's biggest magazine by audience. The octogenarian anything-and-everything general-interest magazine enjoys more than twice the global circulation of the second-placed title.
With just shy of 100 million readers globally, and 48 editions in 19 languages in more than 60 countries, Reader's Digest is unquestionably a global phenomenon. Even so, the title remains heavily reliant on the US, its biggest market, and could do with attracting some younger readers beyond its loyal audience of fortysomethings.
The title has separate sales offices in each country, but international offices in the UK and Japan can co-ordinate global or multi-market campaigns.
In second place, no, it's not the handbag-sized Glamour, not by a long shot. The world's most successful women's magazine, and the second-biggest title in the world by international circulation, is Cosmopolitan.
The famous glossy has 60 million readers of its 52 international editions.
It is undeniably a household name, but, other than sex and beauty tips for the discerning female, what's the secret to Cosmopolitan's eternal youth? According to the president of Hearst Magazines International, George Green: "We know who we are. We focus on the younger woman and have credible editorial that attracts her."
Editions are produced by partners or subsidiaries, but international campaigns are co-ordinated by HMI's senior vice-president, Jeanette Chang.
National Geographic magazine has wowed generations of nature-lovers with its extensive features and breathtaking photography and is now printed in 24 languages in 60 countries. The title has been reinforced by an empire of brand extensions. Everything from books, maps, CDs and games to a TV channel and a website now carry the National Geographic name. Some would argue the parent title would be in serious trouble without them. The magazine has seen circulation in its key European market slip by a quarter since 1998.
According to Rebecca Hill, National Geographic's international marketing director, the title's strength is running stories that are relevant the world over as environmental issues grow in importance. The title, she says, has "a gold standard of reporting, accuracy and credibility". It has advertising sales reps in all markets and an international ad sales office in London.
The king of the news weeklies is another octogenarian: Time magazine, a title renowned for turning the faces on its covers into icons. Five regional editions are read in more than 180 countries. According to its publishing director, Laurie Benson: "Time is one of the most recognised global brands due to its many years of credible reporting on world events." Multimarket campaigns come through Time sales offices in all major markets and there are headquarters in London, New York and Hong Kong.
Despite some, ahem, stiff competition from the rowdy rabble of new entrants to its market, Playboy is still the best-known men's magazine brand, seeing off competition from the likes of FHM, Maxim and Men's Health.
David Walker, the vice-president and editorial director of international publishing at Playboy Enterprises International, says: "Playboy touches the imagination of people with a powerful message: life is about joy, about engagement, about fun." There are licensees publishing in 17 countries outside the US, while global campaigns can be negotiated from the US as well as within each market.
TOP FIVE GLOBAL MAGAZINES
Magazine International circulation
Reader's Digest 23.0
National Geographic 8.6
Source: individual publishers.
The Japanese broadsheet Yomiuri Shimbun can proudly claim to be the world's best-read newspaper. The title has a daily circulation of ten million and stands head and shoulders above any other of the world's nationals.
Yet it is the urban free newspaper Metro that takes the biscuit as the biggest-circulating international title. There are 46 daily editions of Metro, which was first published in Stockholm in 1995 by Modern Times Group. The paper now runs in 17 countries across Europe, the US and Asia.
Greg Miall, the director of international advertising, says its rapid growth is down to its young, metropolitan readership. "It's what 18- to 40-year-olds want in a format that's designed to fit their lives," he says.
It has proved a hard sell in some traditional newspaper markets, where readers took a while to take a freebie seriously. Likewise, in the early days, advertisers were almost exclusively small, local players. It was hardly a desirable advertising environment.
Now, though, brands of the scale and respectability of Levi's and British Airways are to be found in Metro. International ad sales across multiple markets are handled by a team based in London.
Next is USA Today, which is published by Gannett, the owner of the UK regional newspaper group Newsquest. As its title suggests, the paper lacks the truly global outlook that, say, the International Herald Tribune is gunning for. Nevertheless, the daily is published in 60 countries across the world, with three regional editions.
"We offer the time-pressed American business traveller the news and information they need, wherever they may be in the world," Linda Quigg, the newspaper's senior director, international advertising sales, says. All ads are positioned as global buys, but can be sold regionally.
Winning the battle of international business dailies is Dow Jones' flagship title The Wall Street Journal, which enjoys a comfortable lead over its arch-rival, the Financial Times, in terms of global circulation.
Karen Elliott House, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal, says: "We offer incomparable reach to our advertisers and unsurpassed global business coverage relevant to our subscribers."
The WSJ has three global editions: the original US title, The Wall Street Journal Europe and The Asian Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones shocked the newspaper market recently after it revealed its European and Asian editions were going compact.
Regional sales offices can negotiate multimarket deals and Dow Jones Integrated Solutions offers deals across the parent company's various platforms, including the financial news channel CNBC.
The Financial Times has four editions across the world and three sales offices, which can each sell global campaigns. Despite a rocky road for the famous pink paper of late, it still commands respect. Ben Hughes, the FT's worldwide advertising director, says: "We have a brand which stands for authoritative, accurate, insightful and independent reporting. This transcends countries and regions."
The International Herald Tribune is now wholly owned by the New York Times after the Washington Post sold its stake in 2003. More than a century old, the IHT sells in 180 countries. According to its ad director, EMEA, Jean Christophe Damarta, it is "the only international general-interest newspaper", setting it apart from its business-based rivals.
It sells global ad campaigns through all offices, plus one package with the New York Times and another, EuroReach, with European newspaper partners.
TOP FIVE GLOBAL NEWSPAPERS
Newspaper International circulation
USA Today (average) 2.5
The Wall Street Journal 2.3
Financial Times 0.4
Intl. Herald Tribune 0.2
Source: individual publishers.