Media industry set for further consolidation

25 February 2010

LONDON: Changing consumer behaviour and the need for consolidation are among the main challenges currently facing media owners, according to speakers at the IAA Future of Media event earlier this week.

Presenting at the panel discussion in London, Phil Stokes, head of entertainment and media at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said media firms would remain committed to "attracting audiences, to make them attractive to advertisers."

However, this has become considerably more complicated as popular usage behaviour fragments, a trend that is now observable among both younger and older age groups.

"The consumer habits of the young are bleeding up the demographics, and actually parents' consumer habits are turning in to those of their children. That has quite a profound impact on media," said Stokes.
According to the consultancy, global adspend fell by an estimated 12.1% in 2009, with a contraction of 2.7% likely in 2010, before the market grows by 1.4% in 2011, 5.9% in 2012 and 6.1% in 2013.

However, Stokes added a word of warning, as "the total revenues that media owners will earn from advertisers in 2013 is less than it was in 2007."

"That has some pretty profound impacts for their own cost bases and how they, therefore, can invest in the new economy in order to continue to attract audiences," he added.

In this context, Adam Smith, futures director of GroupM, the media arm of WPP Group, said charging for content, and broader consolidation, would shape the post-recessionary environment.

"The startling fact of this recession has been the survival rate of media ownership, which has created a perpetual abundance of media inventory, which has kept a cap on prices," he argued.

"The merger and acquisition business has taken a holiday with the credit crunch, so I think there's a lot of unfinished business there. So if I were a media owner, I would be looking at 'am I a predator or am I prey?' ... and arrange my assets accordingly."

From an agency perspective, Mel Varley, global chief strategy officer of Mediaedge:cia, suggested creative and media shops would also have to become more flexible to adequately serve their clients.

"What we're seeing around the world is that a lot of what is going to happen in most places is happening already somewhere, and some countries are definitely ahead of the curve in some types of areas," she added.

Japan, for example, shows one possible future trajectory of "digitisation", particularly with regard to mobile, and the opportunities that exist for adapting and producing TV content specifically for this platform.

Jamie Leach, international client managing director, Starcom MediaVest Group, further argued that brands needed to shift their focus towards "earned" and "generated" media in the digital space. 

"While to date, the majority of media investment and energy has really focused on the bought space ... this balance is shifting."

However, while this change has resulted in a greater emphasis being placed on viral video and similar forms of communication, strong creative ideas across all media remain crucial to connecting with consumers, she continued.

A full report from the IAA Future of Media event will be available on Warc soon.

Data sourced from Warc