Jeremy Lee
Jeremy Lee
A view from Jeremy Lee

Jeremy Lee: Why Bampton may have the last laugh over at Channel 5

Given that Nick Bampton is generally considered, following the recent TV shake-up, to have ended up with a straw so short that it is barely visible even in his small hands, you'd expect him to be feeling more than a little bit glum and perhaps even a tiny bit bitter.

After all, Bampton is widely thought of being far too quick to blink in taking the job running Channel 5's sales operation after its acquisition by Northern & Shell. If only he had sat it out just a little bit longer, they say, he'd have been in with more than a good shout at the more attractive (and financially rewarding) ITV and Channel 4 top sales jobs that subsequently became vacant.

As one of the rapidly depleted band of people who is held in such affection by the industry that he has long been granted an abridged version of his surname - Bammo - the goodwill was considerable. With this, he could have successfully turned his eye to pretty much anything.

Sadly, however, he ended up rushing to the unlovely and unloved Channel 5, where he can be imagined sitting in a garret in Northern & Shell's Lower Thames Street offices, a bit like Miss Havisham, ruing what might have been and, perhaps, scheming some petty revenge.

Except he's not (well, not publicly at least). Northern & Shell's decision to buy the rights to Big Brother - in what was presumably not a particularly hard-fought bidding process - has made Channel 5 a tiny bit more interesting again (see Forum).

It's managed to knock those tales about management taking the kettles away so that staff have to use their pay as truck money in order to get a hot drink from the vending machines, or whispers about the sales floor being used as an out-of-hours set for some of the, erm, less-respectable parts of Richard Desmond's empire, off the rumour mill.

It's also given Bampton an interesting challenge and, unlike Channel 4, which had struggled in the end to generate much interest from advertisers or in the tabloids from the moribund Big Brother format, in Northern & Shell's assets he has an advantage. With a reach of more than 39 million individuals, who it can be assumed are demographically and socio-economically similar, how Northern & Shell manages to cross-sell across its portfolio of titles will be an interesting case study to other media owners keen to embrace marketing partnerships in order to attract incremental ad revenue.

While everyone has talked about this for years - and some, such as Emap Advertising had some success, albeit on smaller platforms - Big Brother presents an opportunity to exploit multimedia assets on a far bigger scale. And if Bampton successfully pulls it off, then he will have shown that perhaps his move wasn't so ill-advised and CV-staining after all.

- jeremy.lee@haymarket.com

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