Apparently, when Ted Turner takes a pee his (male?) PA stands at
his shoulder taking dictation. So busy is Mr Turner that not even the
urinal stands between him and his next deal. It’s nice to think that his
dollars 8.3 billion and status as Time Warner’s largest individual
shareholder and the US’s largest landowner comes at such a price - no
sloping off to read the morning’s tabloid behind the closed loo door for
Such focus has undoubtedly helped make him the man he is today: very
well off, and - although perhaps not quite central to AOL/Time Warner
(value: dollars 141bn) - a media mogul of the highest order.
Take a recent convention in the US to celebrate the 20th anniversary of
CNN. The shebang kicked off with a head-to-head opener by Bush and Gore,
followed by a presentation from Koffi Annan, a piece to camera by
Vladimir Putin, the thoughts and aspirations from a live Gorbachev and,
er, Jane Fonda (although she’s still mad at Ted, apparently).
A clutch of top European advertisers were among a select band of around
300 delegates treated to the musings of these and other key political
and international figures (and Jane Fonda). Now that seems like a pretty
impressive couple of days to me; no messing around with a few old soap
stars to give Ted’s party some pizazz.
Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic everyone’s getting very excited
about ITV. How clever Gerry Robinson and Charles Allen have been down at
Granada, sitting pretty now that Stephen Byers has voted in favour of
two ITV companies rather than three. Who will make it to the final
round? Will Carlton and United merge to form a pounds 10 billion giant?
If so, will they then seek a deal with RTL (pounds 14 billion)? Will
Granada swoop on Carlton or United? Or will it content itself with
Meridian (pounds 500 million)?
These are, of course, critical questions which will shape the
fundamental structure of the UK’s biggest commercial TV channel. But
let’s not be in any doubt that even when the time comes for a single ITV
company, it’s still not going to be enough to really matter in anything
other than the most parochial of senses. Merging all three ITV companies
would still only amount to a dollars 20 billion business (can’t imagine
Putin and Annan turning up for ITV’s birthday bash).
The only real chance for an ITV presence on the global stage is for a
powerful alliance between a mighty ITV company and a major international
player. And those advertisers (rightly) concerned about this week’s
prospect of an ITV airtime sales duopoly should also be concerned about
the concentration of global media power into a handful of AOL/Time
Warners and Viacom/CBSs.
If competition is desirable, it should also be desirable on the
international stage and wouldn’t it be nice if Britain had more than a
bit part to play there.