Why magazines might go it alone in TV terms

When the ITC publishes its new sponsorship code next Thursday formally freeing magazines to translate their brands into commercial television programmes, it is expected to pose real problems for big publishers with the strongest titles.

When the ITC publishes its new sponsorship code next Thursday

formally freeing magazines to translate their brands into commercial

television programmes, it is expected to pose real problems for big

publishers with the strongest titles.



This is because it is unlikely that the freedom will be simply extended

into the core terrestrial channels of Channel 3, 4 and 5 although

digital terrestrial may be another thing. What this means in practice is

that successful consumer publishers, many enjoying record sales and

advertising, will have to weigh up whether to forge alliances with

weaker sales cable and satellite operators, in the expectation that,

while they are learning the TV ropes, an equalization of the rules will

follow on before too long.



The cable and satellite option is, understandably, far short of what

they want, especially as they see the BBC’s magazine publishing

business, spinning from its TV programmes, going from strength to

strength and their editorial ideas being ripped off by the electronic

media anyway (a common gripe of all print).



But there is one programme currently on mainstream TV which demonstrates

the kind of exposure magazines would kill for: Channel 4’s Fortean

TV.



This has managed to slip through the net because ’Fortean’ is wholly

based on the name of the movement’s deceased founder, and there is no

formal link at all with the monthly magazine Fortean Times - although

many of the items come from its pages and its sales can only

benefit.



The dilemma facing Britain’s top 50 or so magazines is graphically

demonstrated by the experimental link up already underway between

National Magazines (Good Housekeeping and Zest) and Granada Sky

Broadcasting on the one hand and IPC’s Ideal Home and Carlton Food

Network on the other. Since striking up relationships, both have been

adapting features in their magazines to lifestyle cable and satellite

slots. But, as you ponder the viewing figures, in the 20,000 to 30,000

bracket, you cannot help but wonder whether an influential magazine

selling nearly 500,000 copies a month, is getting the exposure to make

it all worthwhile. It is, of course, early days.



But the BBC’s experience is worth pondering. It now bitterly regrets the

way it contributed natural history programmes and quality programmes in

the 1980s to American channels such as Discovery and the Arts and

Entertainment Network. These built billion dollar branded assets on the

back of its creativity and formats. Perhaps magazine publishers should

band together, bury the hatchet and launch their own sponsored Magazine

Channel, on which leading titles could promote themselves. Some

examples: Sugar at 6 pm, FHM at 11 pm. It just might make good media

business sense.



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