OPINION: Viacom decision on Nickelodeon is hard to fathom

So the Americans have pulled the Rugrats from under Sky’s feet.

So the Americans have pulled the Rugrats from under Sky’s feet.



In some ways this looks a very strange manoeuvre.



In case it is not clear, I am referring to our front page story last

week, in which it was revealed that Sky’s impressive sales operation has

lost the contracts for both Nickelodeon and the Paramount Channel.



Viacom US, which jointly owns Nickelodeon with Sky and owns Paramount

outright, decided to make Sky pitch against its European MTV and VH-1

sales teams. It then awarded the contract to the MTV and VH-1 teams that

offered the higher revenue guarantee bid.



This is a rather bizarre decision. OK, there is some sense in it in that

both channels target youth, although Nickelodeon’s audience is

considerably younger (except for me) than MTV’s target market of 16- to

24-year-olds. And Paramount, with its diet of comedy (the new rock ’n’

roll), might also be considered to fit with the music stations. But that

is where the logic ends, as far as I can see.



The Nickelodeon sales team at Sky is a quality outfit that loves its

product. From the conversations our broadcast reporter Rachel Minter has

had with a number of TV buyers, it appears the Sky team is highly

respected and is thought to have done a sterling job. The decision to

lose the expertise offered by people such as ad director Steve Warwick

and sales manager Bobbi Brown should not be taken lightly.



What is more, I can’t help wondering whether the Americans who took the

decision have really considered the enormous differences between the US

and UK markets. Several sources have suggested they had been

disappointed with Nickelodeon’s revenues but this must surely be an

exaggeration of the thoughts of Viacom US. Mustn’t it?



The MTV and VH-1 sales teams are clearly full of good people, but the

general feeling seems to be that they have made a revenue guarantee bid

that may turn out to be unachievable. On that score, they clearly have -

and deserve - the chance to prove everyone wrong.



But what will they do for extra staff? They don’t seem to have a big

enough team to simply absorb Nickelodeon and Paramount and, as we all

know, there aren’t a lot of great people wandering the streets looking

for work at the moment. The obvious answer is to try to lure some of the

former sales team across to MTV, but this does not seem to be the

plan.



To be fair (excuse a touch of the Ron Atkinsons here), MTV has obviously

not felt ready to talk publicly about the deal. When it does decide to

speak, perhaps we will get a whole new perspective on this decision but,

until then, it remains a tough one to understand.



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