MEDIA: Euro TV builds on decade’s growth - As broadcasters embrace digital technology, pan-European TV players are boosting their services by providing a range of country-specific offerings. Andy Fry reports

The launch of the Astra satellite in 1989 allowed broadcasters to target pan-European television audiences for the first time.

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

year.



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

from Berlin.



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

advertising.



’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

feeds.’



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

time.’



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

television network.



Cartoon Network will adapt its programming according to the local palate

and its licensing needs.



Licensing issues



’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

ground.’



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

prism.’



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

month.



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

Hewlett-Packard.



CNBC managing director Marga McNally says: ’Our mission was to use the

global resources of our parents to provide business news on a

Europe-wide basis.



’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

McNally.



’We are part of a group that contains The Far East Economic Review,

CNBC, Dow Jones Interactive, The Wall Street Journal and NBC.’



Research doubts



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

qualitative, research.



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

clients.



’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

measures.



The main tool is a survey called Toontrack, which involves 1700

interviews across Europe among five- to 11-year-olds in serviced

homes.



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

homes.



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



BBC Worldwide



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.



Cartoon Network



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.



CNBC Europe



It broadcasts around-the-clock to 25 million homes. Clients include BMW,

Airbus and Xerox. Editorial priority is to improve coverage in key

industry sectors.



CNN International



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

Iridium.



Discovery Europe



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.



EuroNews



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.



Eurosport



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.



MTV



It has four sub-regional programme feeds and eight advertising

windows.



In July it launches MTV Extra, MTV Base and VH1 Classics on

SkyDigital.



NGC



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.



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