MEDIA: HEADLINER - Cable's beleaguered duo see alliances as a way to expand. Carter and Jansen's plans for ntl and Telewest make sense

They seem perfect for each other. The cable operators Telewest and

ntl are reported to be approaching a merger and the speculation follows

a period of sustained flirting between the two companies.

Ntl's Stephen Carter has made no secret of his friendship with

Telewest's chief executive, Adam Singer. Carter left his role as J.

Walter Thompson's chief executive in October last year after four years

in the post to join ntl as its chief operating officer.

Credited with a huge amount of marketing insight by those who have

worked with him, Carter's departure from the agency came as no surprise

to industry watchers who said that his involvement in other sides of the

business suggested that his main interests lay outside of advertising.

Carter also persuaded Jeremy Davis, digital@JWT's managing director, to

follow him to the cable company as head of commercial content.

Former colleagues of Carter's seemed strangely unwilling to talk on the

record about his qualities but they tend to describe him as

"trustworthy", "discreet" and "sensitive". He is no pushover,


According to one source at an ntl agency, Carter could never be accused

of favouritism toward JWT. "I think he drives JWT very hard to get good

work from it. It is certainly not the easiest account to work on," he


It has been suggested that Carter is working with Telewest's managing

director, consumer division, Philip Jansen, on joint alliances between

the two companies. They both refused to talk to Campaign about their

joint activities.

Both men are in their mid-30s (Carter is 37 and Jansen 34) and have

experience of consumer branding in common. Carter, who quickly rose

through the ranks at JWT, studied law at Aberdeen University. Jansen was

previously the company's marketing director and was promoted to the post

of managing director of Telewest's consumer division in May last year.

Before joining Telewest in 1999, Jansen was the group marketing director

at Dunlop Slazenger, where he was part of a management buyout.

Clearly something of a tough operator at times of management shakeouts,

Jansen then landed the top marketing job at Telewest after its merger

with Flextech, fighting off the challenge of Flextech's Mike Smallwood.

Jansen's consumer marketing knowledge will be vital in driving forward

Telewest's offering.

There are some strong forces pushing ntl and Telewest together, the most

recent of which was the launch of a joint marketing initiative from both

groups to promote broadband internet access.

This isn't the only time that the two companies have gone public


They jointly own the pay-per-view service FrontRow, and in May ntl put

its ad sales into Flextech, Telewest's content division. The move

created a one-stop-shop for media agencies looking to secure cable space

on behalf of their clients.

Ntl has recently announced its one millionth digital subscriber and is

on track to achieve its year-end target of 1.25 million. Telewest, the

smaller of the two fish, is clocking in with half a million digital

customers. Their combined user figures surpass those of ITV Digital,

which has 1.14 million customers.

However, Carter has acknowledged that ntl has a big problem with

customer service and customer churn and that this must be addressed.

Also, both Telewest and ntl have heavy debts - estimated to be £4.7 million and £11 million respectively.

Only this week, the Government issued renewed intentions to speed up the

take-up of digital TV services. As part of the initiative, called Go

Digital, the Government will provide digital television equipment to

households in the West Midlands for free. If there is good take-up, this

could lead to significant growth of Telewest and ntl's services.

It remains to be seen if a merger occurs but both Jansen and Carter are

clearly ambitious to grow their operations. So it's a matter of watch

this space. It makes sense for the two companies and for Carter and

Jansen to work together, but it might be a little early to go out and

buy a new hat.