Britain's TV Sales Organisations Mull Alliance

04 February 2004

ITV plc, which yesterday enjoyed a successful post-merger debut on the London Stock Exchange, is in discussion with its main commercial rivals Channel 4, Five and satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

On the agenda is the formation of a new UK trade body with aims similar to those of the Radio Advertising Bureau -- to promote the generic benefits of the TV advertising medium.

ITV is believed to be the prime mover in the initiative, having resisted a collegiate approach in the pre-merger days when its discrete franchisees each competed with the other to sell advertising.

But ITV's rivals are likely to be cautious, only too well aware that the newly-formed giant holds an eyewatering 52% of the British TV advertising market.

Says Nick Milligan, deputy ceo of Five, which has an 8% market share: "In the 1980s there was a marketing agency for TV but in the 1990s there was a new, brash, arrogant approach which served neither advertisers nor broadcasters. Now we need to adopt a softer approach and have a more inclusive and effective means of communicating with the advertiser."

Andy Barnes, head of advertising at Channel 4 (20% ad share), believes the main broadcasters are committed in principle to working together. But the going will not be easy: "The time is right for the companies to come together. The only hard thing is getting people in the same room and agreeing an agenda that suits everybody."

Media buyers, however, are not wholly convinced that the broadcasters can drop their rivalries in a common cause: "The TV companies have got to be honest with each other and find a new way of talking ... at a professional level in order to explain the benefits of TV. That's something they'll have to work on over the next few years," opines Chris Hayward, head of TV at ZenithOptimedia.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff