Wednesday, November 29, 2006

More on ITV

So just when you think ITV has lost the plot they bring a rabbit from out of the hat. BBC now facing some issues (chief one being licence fee but also approval for the iplayer to sort out).

Mr. Grade is charismatic and was not suited; in my view to the very political post that chairman of the BBC Trust would be - I tip Portillo for that one..

Here's a piece I wrote before the bombshell was dropped, it sort of stands up but one of the best players has just joined the other side and the game's a bit more even (my own go at a dodgy football analogy).

The battle for ITV’s Control.
ITV has in the last couple of weeks seen a flurry of activity resulting in the TV network’s share price being driven to a peak of around 115p the price has now settled to a little over 111p still a considerable improvement on mid-September when it was hovering around the £1.00 mark. So why the increase and interest in ITV and how is it likely to affect the UK’s TV viewers over the next few years?
The UK’s top commercial broadcaster has suffered a loss of audience while the number of multi channel digital TV homes has leapt over the last 4 years to over 18 million homes but it remains the first stop for advertisers who want to reach the UK population ‘en masse’, it has a weekly reach of around 80% of the potential UK TV viewers, it has near universal coverage and a strategy that is showing signs of success in bringing its audience with it into the segmented market that now characterises broadcast TV.
Now there’s discussion if it was James Murdoch the Sky CEO or his Dad Rupert the Chairman or a combination of the two who managed the coup that delivered 17.9% of ITV to Sky but a coup it most certainly was and at present it appears successful, although Skys’ official line is that it does not want undue influence and that ‘Our investment is a long-term and supportive shareholding in ITV’ ‘ it is undoubtedly a case of Sky getting it’s retaliation in first.
The respected media commentator Raymond Snoddy has a theory which he’s floated in Brand Republic the theory goes along the lines that Sky are lining up RTL to buy ITV, RTL are historically a free to air broadcaster and won’t spoil Skys’ hold on the UK pay TV business. Sky will in time take Channel 5 off the current owner RTLs’ hands at a knock down price, this certainly has logic to it but the price for Five will have to be a heavily discounted one; it’s noticeably failing to win audience share and its own multi channel strategy has a question mark hanging over it.
The headline interest for NTL is that ITV has content and it reckons that the combination of NTL and ITV will constitute a combined operation that can give Sky a run for its money when bidding for attractive films and top notch sports. Flextech the content provider the outfit owns currently delivers profit but this is underpinned by a deal with BBC Worldwide that is favourable to the cable giant but which will in due course be renegotiated.
Sir Richard Branson the largest shareholder NTL is performing as spokesperson for the deal and is keen to be seen as the wounded party as he was in his earlier giant killer’ battles with British Airways rather than a shareholder in a US listed hostile bidder, NTL is in the process of re-branding itself as Virgin Media and in the last 12 months has merged with both Telewest and Virgin Mobile, the cable company has shown ambition in spades but historically has repeatedly failed to deliver and NTL in the past have failed to gain the subscribers it desires or address the poor service reputation it holds.
The challenge for ITV’s board is to speedily fill the whole left by Charles Allens’ departure with a CEO who can offer vision and inspiration, ITV has a number of channels and a potentially significant ‘new media’ brand in Friends Reunited but it has to look at monetizing its content as well as providing the brand that advertisers can rely on to deliver audiences to its commercials.
The next few weeks will be potentially amongst the most significant of ITV’s illustrious history and the difference between holding the number 3 button for posterity on the nations TV’s and becoming a mere also ran will be decided. Sky may prove to have delivered ITV from a fate worse than death, but the ITV board should watch its new best friend carefully, it’s pushed itself into the driving seat and it’ll be a powerful force that can grab the wheel away.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

On a Carousel

Amateur Theatre?
Ealing has a theatre called the Questors which we visited this weekend and the production was of a Carousel, four points
1) Something at London’s Schools must be going well as it was a very professional production performed by School students aged 18 and younger.
2) Carousel (and some other musicals of similar vintage) is a much darker deeper piece than a lot of people may realise – I don’t think that present musical theatre has such depth
3) It is worth going out and seeing real people do things cinema, tv etc. is too sanitised.
4) London is (largely) an integrated multi racial city that has a lot of positive things going for it

Saturday, November 18, 2006

What a week in media

ITV saga continues
Perhaps NTL got it right Sky have spent nearly a billion to make life difficult for those who want an ITV/NTL merger. RTL owners of Channel Five are also said to be considering a bid, this though methinks exposes the lack of value of their own channels.
Despite the bad mouthing that is going on ITV has what other companies want and need compelling content, the truth of the matter is that TV is now operating in a far more competitive market and ITV is not doing that badly (that’s not to say it couldn’t do better) –I still fancy a so called New Media company deal long term (perhaps Yahoo). The thing is Sky paid 135p per share and has put titself in the driving seat while ITV has no effective CEO.
As a sideline issue Sky can probably bring some pressure to its new best friend ITV on its involvement in the yet to be launched satellite version of Freeview which the BBC and other non Sky channels has been championing.
And amongst other blows to the BBC
The BBC’s battle for an above or even pegged at inflation rate settlement and if that was not enough it seems Channel four has outflanked it on a broadband TV vision.
Channel Four is to make content delivery on demand a paying proposition, this has ramifications for the BBC who are looking to put a fair amount of their content on the net for UK viewers for free, a free offering would certainly have implications for companies seeking to commercialise such a service. The idea that licence fee payers should super serve broadband users is also questionable
BT in deals
BT as well as being in the market for buying broadband users is moving out of satellite as seen with the sale of their Broadcast Satellite interests, what’s slightly surprising is that reports say they’ll retain the Occasional Use (Ad hoc Sports and News coverage events need these) element which had been the original trigger for them to seek a buyer.
BT could of course be another potential buyer of ITV PLC

Thursday, November 09, 2006

ITV and NTL you must be joking

On the day that interest rates in the UK rose to a 5 year high of 5% the Finance story that took my fancy was that ITV and NTL are in merger talks.

Now I've been predicting an ITV takeover for nearly a year and have bought and sold shares as the rumours have ruffled the metaphorical curtains of the city but I really find this idea a bit rich.
Serial bankrupt NTL (now working as Virgin Media) to buy troubled (but profitable) ITV.

Why -so Stephen Carter can have a job where he used to (NTL)?

What's the synergy (about zero)?

To me this looks like a marriage made in hell, I'll probably be proved wrong but I've sold my ITV shares anyway.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tube stuff and more

So looking for info on Sunday service found this site
What a great photo, anyway the plan was to visit some sort of Christmas fayre at Olympia, I'm probably getting worse as I can't fully understand why you should pay for the chance to buy things as you do here.
I'm also puzzled why the boss of the tube gets so much pay when he seems to be unable to organise a train to go from earls court to Olympia, if he had performance related pay he'd be paying us!
Having said that he has marginally more credibility than his lunatic boss Ken Livingstone who not only indulges in behaviour that discredits his office but considers lying on job applications to be okay, how anyone could vote for hinm puzzles me (as does his return to the Labour party).

On a more positive note, Fireworks at EALING cricket club last night were fantastic a real pleasure and good atmosphere.