Media Perspective: Getting more bang for their TV buck has never been easier

"Staying in is the new going out" is the phrase we keep hearing to sum up consumer behaviour.

Arena BLM is the latest agency to use it in research outlining the likely impact of recession as it pushes the notion that media becomes more important in a downturn for providing "cheap entertainment, reassurance and escapism".

The TV market might not be totally decimated next year then. Last weekend's viewing figures showed that 8.9 million switched on for the first episode of ITV's I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! while The X Factor pulled in 10.6 million. It's the sort of performance that will no doubt be celebrated at this week's Thinkbox Televisionaries conference as the TV business attempts to present a united front going into a tumultuous and uncertain future.

Sure, the viewing figures look good (TV audiences are up by more than 5 per cent year on year) but TV ad revenues don't. Added to the declines of this year, agencies are predicting a downturn of between 5 and 10 per cent in TV ad revenues during 2009. A nightmare for commercial broadcasters. Of course, the silver lining for advertisers is that this represents great value that will see prices on a par with those from 1990 in real terms. And TV companies in their autumn presentations to agencies are emphasising this incredible value coupled with a newfound accountability that will wow the modern marketer into committing greater share of spend to TV.

While there are signs that some advertisers, fresh from presentations from the likes of ITV and Channel 4, are as enthusiastic about TV as ever, the industry has been hampered by its own complexity and has, at times, been its own worst enemy. On the content side of things the message is clear - post-Ross and Brand, there is a yearning for less cynical, less mean, more straightforward fare from broadcasters (Peter Kay's X Factor spoof on Channel 4 and Harry Hill on ITV are recent examples). There are also increasing calls for a simpler, more focused industry sales structure.

Competition is good for advertisers but so is flexibility and there are signs that broadcasters are starting to talk about the benefits of greater consolidation of sales points, especially in multichannel, with the likes of IDS, Viacom Brand Solutions, Sky and Five likely to consider some form of co-operation going forward. The next stage in submissions for the Office of Fair Trading/Ofcom investigation into the future of CRR are also being invited, raising in some advertisers' eyes the spectre of greater freedoms for ITV by 2010.

All this discussion might not be bad for advertisers, especially if TV companies can find ways of offering increased flexibility around the greater levels of late spend likely to be coming into the market next year. And it is necessary if broadcasters are to survive the coming months.


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