CAMPAIGNS: What The Media Say - Speculation grows on ITV Digital future

Organisation: ITV Digital

Issue: Company's future



Speculation abounded over the future of pay-TV company ITV Digital last

week as the media tuned into the 'TV sideshow' (The Guardian, 20/10) of

the 'troubled business' (FT.com, 22/10) and its co-owners Granada and

Carlton Communications.



Whether the two companies, under pressure from their shareholders amid

falling share prices and a huge slump in advertising revenues, were

ready to pull the plug was a question raised time and again by

commentators keeping an eye on this particularly compelling soap

opera.



What was certain was that ITV Digital was in 'crisis and the analysts

are baying for blood'. Nick Higham on BBC News Online (22/10) echoed the

often-made point that the company was a 'big drain on the resources of

Carlton and Granada'.



Using a piggy-in-the-middle analogy - being bullied on one side by Sky

and the other by the cable companies - The Daily Telegraph (20/10)

wrote '... this piggy is now worth more dead than alive.'



The Murdoch-owned News of the World (21/10) appeared to give ITV Digital

some much-needed publicity oxygen with a double-page featuring

Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs in an apron, apparently part of the

ongoing couch-potato vs monkey TV ads.



ITV Digital chief executive Stuart Prebble,argued in The Guardian

(22/10) that the future of digital TV in Britain rested on the success

of his company, in the face of Sky's 'total monopoly ownership of

premium sport'.



To add injury to insult, BskyB shares rose sharply as traders speculated

that ITV Digital subscribers would defect to Sky Digital.



While City correspondents kept their fingers on the button in reporting

the fluctuating share prices of Carlton and Granada, it was a largely

neutral media reporting on whether ITV Digital can 'outrun the mob'

(mediaguardian.co.uk. 22/10), with plenty of theory from analysts but

few quotes from company insiders.



'All options are under consideration,' was all Gerry Murphy, CEO of

'debt-laden' Carlton (The Guardian 20/10), had to say.



Many took that to mean the end of the series and led to headlines such

as 'Carlton hints at ITV Digital closure' (ftmarketwatch.com,

22/10).



What happens next is under discussion.



Analysis and commentary by Echo Research. More information can be found

at: www.echoResearch.com



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