The launch of the Astra satellite in 1989 allowed broadcasters to
target pan-European television audiences for the first time.
The pioneers of this new medium were CNN International, Eurosport and
MTV, networks that launched with a single English-language feed and
propagated the view that news, sport and music were programme genres
that transcended national boundaries.
Up to a point, they have been proved right. Ten years later, they boast
robust positions in a pan-European TV advertising market thought to be
worth dollars 300m (pounds 191m) in 1998, having grown by 25% year on
However, as technology has improved, the notion that a single service
could be relevant to all of Europe has slowly been eroded.
Eurosport, for example, provides 16 separate language tracks across
Europe and has just launched a customised UK network on digital.
In January, CNNI launched a 24-hour Spanish-language news channel called
CNN+ and last year invested in a German-language morning news service
Music-based network MTV, arguably the most aggressive, has four European
sub-regional programme services and eight advertising windows. The UK
alone receives MTV, VH1 and M2.
So does this mean pan-European media is dead? Not according to Eurosport
sales director Tom Keaveney, who points out that, UK digital feed aside,
his channel still provides the same core programming and advertising
proposition to 80 million homes in 44 countries.
’We are growing in terms of audience, distribution and revenue. In the
past 18 months, our new advertisers have included Gillette, McDonald’s
L’Oreal, Mobil, Heathrow Express and Xerox.’
Reasons for success
According to Keaveney, the changes in the pan-European marketplace
reflect two things. First, a clearer understanding by each of the
networks of its own target audience, and second, a greater ability to
serve the needs of its advertising client base. In the case of
Eurosport, he says, there is still a classic pan-European media
opportunity because ’sports action is just about the only genre which
speaks for itself’.
The Eurosport formula appeals to multinationals that want to achieve
prominence in all 44 territories, but not at an astronomical cost, says
Keaveney. ’I can deliver a broad range of audience demographics at a
much lower cost than national broadcasters. I can also demonstrate that
we add unique reach and cover.’
With such a compelling proposition, Keaveney sees no reason to change,
particularly since, as he says: ’A number of trends are moving our way;
clients and agencies are consolidating, there is a shift towards the
single currency in Europe and advertisers are finding economies of scale
by using the same creative across territories. The Nike swoosh, the
McDonald’s arches and the Sony PlayStation shapes all travel well.’
The exception is the UK. ’Generally, it doesn’t make business sense for
us to target the service at specific countries,’ says Keaveney. ’But the
UK is unique in that we have a domestic competitor. By putting more
emphasis on British sports stars and using domestic presenters, we want
to see how far it will boost our impact.’
However, Cartoon Network Europe takes the opposite view on regional
’The pan-European approach was useful to begin with because it seeded us
in 40 million homes across 35 countries,’ says Casey Harwood, senior
vice-president for sponsorship and promotions. ’But it went against the
grain for us. Our strategy was always to provide country-specific
Today, the Cartoon Network has separate analogue and digital feeds in
eight countries. These include a Polish-language service (with 672,000
homes), a Dutch-language service (with 3.7 million homes) and a slot on
a French digital platform that gives it access to a million homes.
According to Harwood, this allows the network to respond specifically to
client needs. One obvious example is during film launches. ’Different
territories release movies at different times,’ says Harwood. ’So if you
want to help a client create a promotional package around a movie, you
have to be capable of coming up with a customised solution at the right
Media owners also need to tailor their offerings to the various
anniversaries celebrated in different European countries. ’In France,
Bastille Day is a big thing. In Holland, they have a national holiday
called Herring Day,’ says Harwood. ’We catered for that by showing lots
of Popeye cartoons.’
The strength of the Cartoon Network’s characters also varies territory
by territory. Its broadcast strategy needs to tie in as closely as
possible with parent group Time Warner’s local character-licensing
programme, which will often be a more mature business than the
Cartoon Network will adapt its programming according to the local palate
and its licensing needs.
’The Flintstones is massive in Germany, whereas Scooby Doo tends to be
more popular in the UK,’ says Harwood. ’Tom and Jerry does well in most
territories, but in France, Disney is very strong. As a result, we have
to ensure we are co-ordinating with our licensing people on the
This emphasis on providing an integrated approach is very much in
evidence at CNNI - another part of the Time Warner group of companies.
Eric Clemenceau, senior vice-president of European advertising sales at
Turner Broadcasting Systems, is responsible for CNNI’s sales strategy.
He says: ’Our starting point is to think about who we want to reach and
what kind of brands we want to attract.’
It is important for CNNI to place as much emphasis as possible on
Europe, but not to replicate existing domestic services, says
Clemenceau: ’Of the programming we produce, 90% is made in Europe for
Europe. But the defining idea of CNN is not to provide local news. It is
to give relevant international information seen through a regional
It attracts a specific upmarket male demographic, he says. ’Independent
research shows that we reach high levels of senior executives in Europe.
No local medium can do that at a comparable cost.’
Increasingly, CNNI is offered as part of a multimedia proposition
alongside other elements of the massive Time Warner media portfolio. ’We
have got to help advertisers reach their target audience in the way they
want to do it,’ says Clemenceau. ’We look for solutions by packaging
together strong media brands.’
A typical example was last year’s Visions of Europe project, which
pulled together CNNI, CNNText, Time, Fortune and CNN Interactive, the
world’s biggest online site with 600 million page impressions a
BMW, Oracle, Vivendi, Airbus and Iridium sponsored the editorial
package, which consisted of a series of articles and TV shows looking at
the state of Europe today. These generated dollars 5m (pounds 3.1m) of
revenue for Time Warner.
Swatch and Volvo have also worked with CNN to create multimedia concepts
to promote their brands.
Clemenceau explains that this integrated approach is supported by a
centralised operation in the US called Turner Marketing Solutions Group,
which works with serious advertisers to find creative solutions, whether
internationally or across a range of media. Examples have included a
perfume advertiser that ran a TV campaign on CNN and also booked Warner
movie houses for an incentive package for its retail workforce.
Clemenceau is bullish about pan-European advertising. He predicts that
25% growth over the coming year is realistic, but also stresses that CNN
is in a position to offer advertisers a global package, of which Europe
is just one part. An example of this is L’Oreal’s ’I’m Worth It’
campaign, which has been screened worldwide.
One recent entrant to the pan-European market is business news channel
CNBC Europe, which was formed last year after the merger of CNBC and
European Business News (a Dow Jones company).
During its first year, the network claims to have experienced 80% growth
in ad revenue and a 58% increase in 24-hour distribution, meaning it now
reaches 25 million homes. Last month it expanded its European news base
with the opening of a bureau in Paris.
CNBC clients now include BMW, Siemens, Airbus, Xerox, Audi, Iridium and
CNBC managing director Marga McNally says: ’Our mission was to use the
global resources of our parents to provide business news on a
’CNBC also has networks in the US and Asia, which are identifiably part
of our company, but each channel is crafted to a particular market.
’The target audience is business people. Whether they are at home, in
hotels or on the trading floors, we aim to meet their needs at any time
of the day,’ adds McNally.
There is no ambition to create a country-specific service ’because our
viewers already have good terrestrial options. We see us as part of the
media mix. We would never expect our viewers to be satisfied with a
single source of information’.
Like CNN, CNBC is positioned to offer clients a range of options within
its corporate family. ’Some advertisers are looking for a mix of media
and we can give them a highly-focused range of options,’ says
’We are part of a group that contains The Far East Economic Review,
CNBC, Dow Jones Interactive, The Wall Street Journal and NBC.’
If there is a concern over pan-European media, it is over the
reliability of its research. With the absence of a Europe-wide
standardised ratings measure, such as the Broadcasters’ Audience
Research Board (BARB), many networks have to rely on their own, more
MediaCom TMB’s international broadcast director Phil Cresswell says:
’You can never have enough research in this market. There isn’t so much
a problem with the quality of research as with its accuracy. Because
audiences for individual channels can be small, the inaccuracies in any
pan-European research can be very big.’
Although precise targeting by territory is presented by media owners as
a benefit, Cresswell says it can actually cause problems for
’Increased targeting makes the buying process more complex for clients.’
It also involves more hassle and extra cost.
Media owners acknowledge that something needs to be done about research
and have clubbed together to investigate the options. CNBC’s McNally
says: ’Research is a huge priority. We want to know the details as much
as agencies. We have made a substantial investment in it because we need
to build accountability.’
The Cartoon Network backs up industry research with its own
The main tool is a survey called Toontrack, which involves 1700
interviews across Europe among five- to 11-year-olds in serviced
Accountability in place
Eurosport’s Keaveney does not believe that concerns about research apply
to his own network. ’We are one of the most researched channels in the
world,’ he claims. ’We have people-meters in 10,000 homes which gives us
the levels of accountability required by agencies. We spend about
dollars 5m (pounds 3.2m) a year on research, but it is worth it because
it helps us generate revenue.’ MTV has also moved toward greater use of
people-meters, as a way of determining viewing habits in multi-channel
One channel that has found an ingenuous solution to the research
question is EuroNews, which is 49% owned by ITN, with the remaining 51%
stake belonging to a consortium of European public broadcasters.
ITN chief executive Stewart Purvis says: ’We are one of the top European
channels in terms of distribution. But we are also part of the daytime
programming on terrestrial. From an advertising point of view that gives
us a unique selling point because we have proper ratings figures. Other
channels make grand claims on distribution without providing a lot of
evidence on who is watching.’
Its shareholders and broadcast partners include RAI in Italy, TVE in
Spain and RTE in Ireland. However, the channel has struck a
ground-breaking deal with broadcasters outside the consortium.
’The two territories where we did not have terrestrial distribution were
Germany and the UK,’ says Purvis. ’But we have signed a deal with RTL
and Channel 5 under which they will run the same ads as EuroNews during
their morning slots. That means EuroNews, through its sales operation,
IP-Network, can deliver upmarket males more cost-effectively than
individual national networks.’
Purvis is optimistic about the potential for Pan-European revenue, but
points out that 1998 was viewed as a mixed year by the market. ’There
were sponsorships of events such as the World Cup which were felt to
have impacted adversely on the available revenue,’ he says. ’But we have
found that, for some advertisers from outside Europe, pan-European media
is a cost-effective way to reach regional audiences. Our upmarket news
proposition is popular with advertisers from Asia.’
PAN-EUROPEAN TV: THE MAIN PLAYERS
A news and information service that reaches 40 million homes. It claims
that audience figures have increased by 51% in the past year and it has
recently secured distribution in Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Finland.
Available in about 40 million homes across 35 countries, it has
dedicated Dutch, Polish, French and Spanish feeds to name but a few.
Partners have included KFC.
It broadcasts around-the-clock to 25 million homes. Clients include BMW,
Airbus and Xerox. Editorial priority is to improve coverage in key
Available in over 100 million households, including Africa and the
Middle East. Last month it announced a major new investment in original
European programming. It also launched a dedicated service for Spain
called CNN+ and favours multimedia projects with sister brands, Fortune,
Time and CNN Interactive. Clients include Swatch, Volvo, BMW and
It has 17 million subscribers, and broadcasts in 14 languages. A
priority has been to set out its stall in the UK digital marketplace.
Sister services include Discovery Home & Leisure and Animal Planet.
Available in 30 million cable and satellite homes, it has recently
launched a terrestrial window called Good Morning Europe, which involves
RTL and Channel 5. It argues that pan-European TV is a good medium for
Asian clients. It has launched a digital service in Russia.
It delivers to 80 million homes across 44 countries. Clients include
McDonald’s, Gillette and Heathrow Express. It recently launched
Eurosport feed for UK on the digital platform. It is particularly strong
in the German market.
It has four sub-regional programme feeds and eight advertising
In July it launches MTV Extra, MTV Base and VH1 Classics on
Since launching 18 months ago, NGC has expanded its distribution to 16
million homes in 20 countries. It also claims to have done business with
more than 1000 brands. Key sectors are automotive, financial, insurance
and consumer goods. It recently launched in Hungary.
This article was first published on Marketing