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TV airtime buyers start to scent blood

21 September 2011

September in adland brings the first scent of war. TV airtime buyers and sellers start to circle each other warily, sizing up budgets and egos ahead of the autumn negotiating battle.

And this is set to be one of the most dramatic TV trading seasons for years; the big three commercial broadcasters have all changed their sales commandos and a new era of TV advertising is about to begin.

Not surprisingly observers are gleefully anticipating some serious bloody noses as the old-style, experienced media buyers take on some of these new-comers.

In ITV’s corner is Kelly Williams, the former sales chief of Channel 5, now in charge of the biggest single inventory of advertising airtime in the TV market. Over at Channel 4, there’s also a new sales leader. This time, though it’s one without any TV trading experience. Jonathan Allen has come from a media agency, OMD, and thrust into the trading ring without Channel 4’s old audience bankers like Big Brother and Glee, Allen looks vulnerable. Brutish TV buyers think they can smell blood. Channel 5’s new commercial commander is Nick Bampton. He used to do the deals for Viacom and probably best reflects the sort of television salesman that all of the broadcasters are now looking for: a creative commercial animal with license to consider commercial packages across a multi-media portfolio.

With ad revenues stalling again, down around 3% in July and August, the TV companies are keen to try new sorts of commercial relationships with brand advertisers that combine broadcast airtime, sponsorship, product placement and on-line advertising in a new breed of commercial package.

The trouble is, say some, that the TV buyers aren’t necessarily quite so keen on this type of multi-faceted deal if it takes their eye off the vital airtime price equation. The buyers are tasked with getting the best discount off the base market price of TV airtime and they’ll fight mean to get it.

Though it’s certainly true that advertisers are looking for more creative commercial opportunities that work across platforms, traditional TV airtime is still king. TV’s new Davids entering the negotiation ring this season may find real victory eludes them for quite some time.

Claire Beale is edItor of Campaign

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