The ITV companies are gearing up for an overhaul of the airtime sales
market that could see another revamp of the TV sales house structure.
Channel 5 - which will begin broadcasting at the start of 1997 - will
redraw the lines governing the current ITV sales structure.
ITV sales houses are restricted to controlling 25 per cent of the total
TV market. But as new channels come on stream, particularly a third
terrestrial commercial TV channel, ITV’s share of total revenue is
gradually falling, enabling the ITV sales houses to increase the size of
the ITV market they represent.
There is also speculation that the Queen’s Speech this month could
change the ITV ownership rules. Currently, companies can own two ITV
licences, but there is increasing pressure for changes to allow one
company to own licences representing up to 25 per cent of total TV
Carlton UK Sales, the sales house for Carlton and Central Television, is
understood to be keen to court HTV, the ITV company broadcasting to the
West and Wales.
Any change to the ITV ownership rules will make STV, HTV and Yorkshire
Tyne Tees potential targets for acquisition by Granada, Carlton and MAI.
HTV’s airtime sales are handled by the sales house, TSMS, but the
station’s share of the ITV ad cake has dipped below 1994 levels. If HTV
were to move into Carlton UK Sales, it would give Carlton a firm grip on
the middle of England and strengthen its position in the TV airtime
market. Carlton could also woo Westcountry, the West-of-England
broadcaster, which would be a neat fit alongside HTV.
Mick Desmond, the chief executive of Laser Sales, which handles Granada,
Yorkshire Tyne Tees and LWT, is also thought to be keen to bring STV
into its fold to dominate the North. Like HTV, STV’s share of revenue
this year has slumped.