Is Flextech’s proposed TV sales house a good idea? Alasdair Reid
Rumour has it that one of Nick Milligan’s pet projects over the past two
years has been the establishment of a sales house for non-Murdoch
satellite channels. So it’s perhaps ironic that the project looks like
going ahead just as Milligan, who is currently the sales director of UK
Gold and UK Living, prepares to head for pastures new.
It was announced last week that he is to be the first sales director of
Channel 5 (judicial reviews permitting), and although the channel isn’t
scheduled for launch until 1997, he will have to begin talking to
agencies next spring (Campaign, 8 December).
The proposed new sales house will probably be launched by the sales
people at United Artists Programming - a sister company in that its
holding company, Flextech, has a shareholding in Gold and Living. After
Murdoch, Flextech is the biggest player in UK satellite television. It
owns Bravo and TCC, and either controls or manages Discovery, TLC and
Country Music TV. It has stakes not just in Gold and Living but also in
European Business News, the Family Channel and Playboy TV.
But would a new sales house be a good idea? One of the selling points of
satellite is the fact that it offers choice, not just in terms of
programming, but in the airtime market too. Won’t a sales house
compromise that diversity?
Jerry Buhlmann, managing director of BBJ Media Services, says that
doesn’t have to be so. ‘It wouldn’t compromise our room to manoeuvre,’
he argues. ‘There are already many other sales houses around - and
you’re certainly not going to get leveraged by a satellite sales house.
‘On the other hand, it would provide the stations with a better resource
and would allow the medium to put a more cogent sell together. Most
importantly, it would give them a greater ability to gain access to
agency and client time.’
BSkyB, according to some buyers, concentrates on numbers rather than
selling the identities of its individual channels. But that’s unlikely
to happen in any new sales house - its numbers just wouldn’t be that
impressive. Yet non-Murdoch satellite channels are taking a growing
share of the satellite audience. Maybe a new sales operation could
capitalise on that with advertisers.
Bill Barker, broadcast director of J. Walter Thompson, argues: ‘It
really would have to preserve the usp of each station. If it is done
properly, there is definitely room for a true rival to the BSkyB sales