CLIVE CROUCH: The ever-changing children's TV market

Television is currently experiencing a period of business turbulence. Put in softer words, change, which is manifesting itself in terms of consolidation, ownership, and airtime sales representation.
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The effect of this is not apparent in the data showing the top performing children's TV shows but, believe me, it will make an impact.

In the wake of the Argos catalogue release, the media buyers and sellers will be preparing to place advertising for the autumn and winter months ahead.

At the recent BTHA Industry Day, people were lamenting the loss of Nickelodeon's highly respected independent sales force and debating its position within the Sky sales portfolio (Viacom had consolidated its sales business alongside its distribution business into Sky from January 2010).

Sky is a great business. Change takes time to meet the expectations and overcome the emotions that follow such moves. On screen, Nickelodeon looks as good as ever and this autumn launches a new show starring Anna Williamson and Jamie Rickers who had a huge following at GMTV Kids.

At Five the For Sale sign is rumoured to be up, while Nick Wilson (director of children's programmes) continues to do a fantastic job with Milkshake. Despite no kids Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) listing, it continues to punch above its weight, delivering numbers in excess of 100,000 with top shows, Fifi, Noddy and Peppa.

Nick has made no secret of his ambition to further develop Milkshake and he is more than equipped to take the brand forward, which would be good news for one and all.

At GMTV Kids, the position is the reverse to that of Nickleodeon. The thirty-strong children's production department all left in May. The team selling the kids’ shows and websites, however, remain in place.

The biggest test for ITV lays in wait. Adam Crozier (CEO) has informed his 150-strong management team that they are to undertake psychometric tests to assess whether they have the right skills for their jobs.

I think it is a brilliant idea. As CEO of ITV, Adam has a high profile business to lead and needs to meet the demands and aspirations of viewers, shareholders and the regulator, Ofcom.

The final current shift towards consolidation will see Virgin Channels sold by IDS, shifting their business into Sky Sales with IDS closing. On industry estimates that’s around £280m, following the £80m of Viacom sales into the same sales house. UK TV Channels will not be following the same path out of IDS as they take their business to Channel 4 for sales representation.

In terms of airtime, sponsorship and online sales, the skills of the specialist buyers who last year spent around £132.7m in this sector ,will be challenged by the new shape, weight and policies of those sellers. Where did that figure come from? Well, it does include 18 software companies and four retailers, which are surrounded by 28 toy companies, all buying into this genre.

I will expand further on this subject next month as we approach the peak advertising season for this sector.

Former chairman of the childrens’ programme management group at GMTV, Clive Crouch has now launched his own media consultancy Clive Crouch Media Insight.
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