BBC Magazines and NatMagCo in Merger Talks

28 March 2002

Magazine mammoths, US-headquartered National Magazine Company and BBC Magazines, a commercial unit of the publicly funded British Broadcasting Corporation, have been holding merger talks it was revealed Wednesday.

Both companies deny they are up for sale – but both claim they are seeking acquisitions. Neither would comment on their discussions which have been temporarily halted.

Industry observers believe, however, that NatMagCo would emerge as the dominant force in any marriage. Its UK arm – whose stable includes Cosmopolitan, She, Company and Zest – would be greatly strengthened by the addition of the BBC’s portfolio which numbers Radio Times, Eve and Top of the Pops magazine as its prime assets, bolstered by a robust pre-school and children’s unit.

BBC chairman Gavyn Davies, a former senior economist with Goldman Sachs, has already bared his commercial teeth, publicly questioning whether the Corporation’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, the parent of BBC Magazines, is best served under BBC ownership. But the fly in the ointment – on which the merger could founder – is the complexity of separating the magazine empire from what effectively is public ownership.

Word around the publishing parish pump is that talks between the two have yet to venture beyond the conceptual stage, although many expect them to be resuscitated later this year.

Data sourced from: Media Week (UK); additional content by WARC staff