MEDIA: SPOTLIGHT ON; Satellite sales houses: Can a joint Flextech sell make it a serious rival to Murdoch?

Is Flextech’s proposed TV sales house a good idea? Alasdair Reid investigates

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



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