Feature

World Media 2007: UK

Despite positive economic indicators, morale is low among Britons. An air of political uncertainty, stirred by the wars in the Middle East and Blair's imminent departure, hangs over the island.

There's no obvious reason for it - but Britain remains in a grumpy mood. The economy in 2006 grew faster (more than 2.6 per cent year on year) than pundits had predicted; and, when polled, a majority of Britons say they feel prosperous and relatively confident about their own economic futures. Yet they consistently add that they feel ill at ease when it comes to the bigger picture.

The country's continuing role in (and responsibility for) the disastrous situation in Iraq might have something to do with that; and the fact the prime minister, Tony Blair, announced back in September that he was to stand down within 12 months has also added an extra dimension to the atmosphere of political uncertainty.

Blair's likely successor, Gordon Brown, may have been famously prudent in his role as chancellor but many suspect that when he takes the top job he will seek any excuse to begin raising taxes. Meanwhile, the Government uses the threat of terrorism to erode centuries-old civil liberties.

In the media sector, as digital media continued to steal audiences, the big theme during 2006 was established media owners reinventing themselves as multi-platform content brands. For instance, the Telegraph Group, owner of one of the country's more conservative quality newspapers, moved into new offices and restructured its editorial side so its journalists could reinvent themselves as multimedia content providers as well as writing for the print version of the newspaper.

Other newspaper groups were going through similar (if milder) revolutions and convergence was also an issue in the broadcast market. BSkyB, the operator of the UK's digital satellite television platform, was already making inroads into the telephone market - and last year it began offering free 2Mb broadband internet connectivity to existing customers.

That focused minds at its rival ntl, already a leader in broadband, tele-phony and digital TV. It followed up its move to acquire Virgin Mobile by bidding for the UK's leading commercial free-to-air terrestrial broadcaster, ITV. Controversially, the deal was blocked when BSkyB mounted a dawn raid to buy a tranche of ITV shares itself.

Television ad revenue remained weak across the whole market in 2006, but, even so, ITV underperformed. It acquired a new boss, the ex-BBC chairman Michael Grade, at the end of 2006 and ITV's performance, as it seeks to reinvent itself for the digital age, is set to be one of the defining themes of 2007.

ADVERTISING EXPENDITURE
USdollars million at current prices. All years based on US$1 =
£0.55 *Estimated
Total News- Maga- TV Radio Cinema Out- Online
papers zines door
2000 19,484 7,759 3,140 6,056 825 198 1,254 251
2001 18,639 7,582 3,080 5,480 754 253 1,220 271
2002 18,699 7,449 2,898 5,723 763 280 1,263 322
2003 19,342 7,560 2,834 5,776 810 279 1,414 668
2004 20,962 7,902 2,940 6,175 846 297 1,525 1,276
2005 21,645 7,602 2,925 6,289 806 291 1,615 2,115
2006 21,856 7,322 2,867 5,911 790 295 1,711 2,960
2007* 22,655 7,216 2,889 5,971 797 302 1,777 3,703
2008* 23,938 7,376 2,942 6,089 812 304 1,864 4,551
2009* 25,360 7,611 3,005 6,182 826 309 1,975 5,450

Adspend notes 1) After discounts. 2) Excludes production costs, except
for cinema and outdoor. 3) Excludes 15 percent agency commission. 4)
Includes classified advertising.

FACTFILE
HIGHEST CIRCULATING TITLES
Newspaper: News of the World (weekly, 3,800,000 copies)
Business magazine: The Economist (weekly, 158,000 copies, UK edition)
Consumer magazine: What's on TV (weekly,1,500,000 copies)
TOP TV SHOWS
Most-watched TV programme: Fifa World Cup 2006, England versus Sweden
Best new TV format: Offbeat hospital comedy Green Wing
MAJOR MEASUREMENT TOOLS
Ciruclation: Audit Bureau of Circulations
Readership: National Readership Survey
TV viewing: Barb
MAIN MEDIA OWNERS
Newspapers: News International, Daily Mail & General Trust
Magazines: IPC Media, Emap
TV: ITV, BSkyB

THE LOWDOWN

- Media topic du jour

Should the BBC - funded as it is by a licence fee - be forced to pull back from commercial activities?

- Reigning media guru and why

Celebrity publicist Max Clifford. His creed - that talent and hard work are irrelevant in today's media world - has never been more relevant.

- Media mogul to be seen dining with and why

Michael Grade, the ex-BBC chairman recently installed as the boss of ITV.

- Car to drive: Any version of the "Chelsea Tractor", notably the Land Rover, especially for the school run.

- Phone to carry: LG U830 Chocolate.

- Whatever you do, don't say: Perhaps Tony Blair should reconsider.

BUZZ MEDIA IDEA OF 2006

BSkyB and TalkTalk went head to head in offering free broadband to multiplatform customers last year. Competition will further intensify with the relaunch of ntl (the UK's leading high-speed internet service provider) under the Virgin Media brand. There's an important land-grab underway here - one of the biggest growth areas in the near future will be on-demand television services delivered over the internet.