SPOTLIGHT ON: MASTHEAD TV: How will masthead TV shows take advantage of new rules? - Publishers are keen to put their titles on TV - but will it work?

Last year, when the Independent Television Commission announced a partial lifting of the ban on masthead programming, one wag in the House of Lords remarked that the decision was a bit like ’decriminalising cannabis for redheads’. Last week saw further concessions - and Ian Locks, the chief executive of the Periodical Publishers Association, greeted them in like manner. The new rules were ’like legalising cannabis, but only allowing smoking behind the bikesheds,’ he said.

Last year, when the Independent Television Commission announced a

partial lifting of the ban on masthead programming, one wag in the House

of Lords remarked that the decision was a bit like ’decriminalising

cannabis for redheads’. Last week saw further concessions - and Ian

Locks, the chief executive of the Periodical Publishers Association,

greeted them in like manner. The new rules were ’like legalising

cannabis, but only allowing smoking behind the bikesheds,’ he said.



This week, the publishing playground was conspicuously empty during

breaks, although there was a dense and rather amusingly-shaped cloud of

smoke rising from a hidden source in the far corner.



The ’redhead decriminalisation’ saw magazine publishers able to launch

television versions of their properties - but only on satellite

channels.



This latest ’bikeshed’ development extends the privilege, allowing them

to launch masthead programming on ITV and Channels 4 and 5.



There’s every indication that publishers intend to make the most of the

new freedoms, despite the odd grumble that the rules, to be in place by

the autumn, don’t go far enough.



For instance, cross-promotion will be restricted. Should, for example,

the Marie Claire Show ever make it on to our screens, the TV version

won’t be able to mention the magazine or any articles in it. And, to

avoid what it sees as the danger of a blurring between advertising and

editorial, the ITC will insist that the TV show should not merely be a

television version of an issue of the magazine.



Publishers believe there will be rich pickings on mainstream TV

Perhaps.



But research conducted for Campaign by CIA MediaLab reveals some

potential wrinkles.



CIA asked 1,000 consumers what they thought about a range of potential

masthead mutations. Strangely, the ones you’d have thought had the most

potential - at the sexier end of the women’s market - stimulated the

least positive response. As the table shows, the Economist is an

unlikely front runner; Marie Claire an even more unlikely

backmarker.



The reason for this may well be that niche magazines are read by a small

but loyal readership. Mass-market titles have a greater proportion of

floating voters. But there’s a related issue. Glossy women’s monthlies

tend to attract an ABC1 audience but the people who say they would watch

masthead programmes tend to be C2DE - not a demographic many advertisers

are keen on.



A problem? Not necessarily - and publishers say they won’t dumb down to

suit the audience. If anything, they will try to get the dynamic to work

the other way. Terry Mansfield, managing director of the National

Magazine Company, says the goal ’should be to raise programme

standards’.



And David Fletcher, the managing director of CIA MediaLab, believes the

picture is generally pretty rosy for publishers across the spectrum.

’There is probably a greater expectation of the programming associated

with smaller titles. And more specialist brands will get a better

relative response from advertisers. I think that the bigger mainstream

magazine brands will transfer very comfortably on to television.’



Who would watch masthead TV?

The Economist               75

FHM                         70

Good Housekeeping           67

Ideal Home                  67

NME                         66

Loaded                      64

Mother & Baby               62

Sainsbury’s magazine        60

Woman’s Own                 59

Cosmopolitan                57

Hello!                      55

Marie Claire                44

Source: CIA MediaLab



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