MEDIA: Tailoring TV

Pan-European media owners are realising the competitive advantage of appealing to local audiences, writes Edward Shelton.

Pan-European media owners are realising the competitive advantage

of appealing to local audiences, writes Edward Shelton.

’A-lop-bop-a-doo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom means the same in any language’ used

to be a favourite saying of Bill Roedy, president of MTV Networks

International, when talking about his channel’s global appeal and its

strategy of broadcasting the same programming across whole


Whilst Roedy’s rhetoric is still just as compelling, something must have

changed because MTV, and many other pan-European broadcasters are now

taking advantage of new digital technology to customise their services

for local tastes.

The advent of digital satellite transmission a couple of years ago made

cutting local windows into generic services cheaper, but the thinking

has changed too. Broadcasters have realised that, although Little

Richard’s lyric might evoke the same feeling in Belgrade as in Bolton,

to maximise the return from a strong media brand like MTV, you need to

mix in local identity.

MTV is taking advantage of the new technology to produce split services,

says Tania Alonzi, board account director at CIA Medianetwork


’The point is that they still have the same brand values. They used the

technology to improve the editorial offering and to be more flexible for


As of this month MTV has four European services: UK, pan-northern,

central and southern. It has chosen to split them to reflect local

tastes, with the pan-northern and UK services focusing on Britpop and

indie music, the central German service playing more techno and dance

music and the southern Italian-focused service playing more Europop.

Local divisions

’The most significant thing is that pan-European channels are

identifying that competition is local, and are acknowledging this, hence

all the local feeds,’ says Liz Workman, vice-president executive

regional media director at Leo Burnett Media.

The new tailored services allow advertisers to increase weight in

particular regions, thus meeting local requirements.

One of the problems with the original pan-European services was


’People have realised that pan-European English language broadcasting

does not work,’ says Gary Bridge, International Media Manager at


Hence, Eurosport, which started with just a handful, now offers 14


CNN International, which originally had the same schedule everywhere,

not only now has four separate services for different parts of the world

(including a European one), but is also experimenting with a German

language window.

Partly as a result of these changes, pan-European media and especially

pan-European television (PETV), are expanding both audiences and ad


Services have also been increasing their networks with Eurosport, NBC

Europe and CNNI now in more than 70 million homes.

’A lot of people are raising their pan-European budgets, adding TV where

it was previously just print,’ says Georgina Hickey, head of buying at

Carat International.

’We’ve seen a definite increase in the clients that want to advertise

pan-regionally. Traditionally, it was big corporates like cars,

airlines, hotels. We now use it for companies like Philips,’ says


’More businesses are looking at things on a pan-European basis

generally, not just media choices,’ says Martin Vernon, sales director

at EBN, which has carried more than 150 brands in its first two years on


A trend that has also helped the growth of pan-European media is the

tendency for agencies to centralise their business. Including a

pan-European solution in the media plan is then an obvious


The PETV market is now worth around dollars 260m (pounds 157m) according

to Alonzi, showing probably 10% to 15% growth in recent years with the

improvement helping to fund the new tailored services. She says the

increase reflects the fact that the medium is being sold better, is more

accountable and is more flexible.

The point about PETV channels, according to Workman, is that they

provide a ’nice umbrella opportunity. You are never going to get the

coverage you get locally’. Leo Burnett uses it in conjunction with local

media on Reebok, for example.

Continental drift

’It is also effective in terms of production - you can use the same copy

across the whole continent,’ says Workman.

Hickey says PETV is typically about 25% of the cost of an average

national channel. ’It is helpful to have at least some TV coverage in

territories where the brand would not be able to afford the national

channels. This is important, in order to get retailers to take the

goods,’ she adds.

The other useful thing about these channels is that because they have to

fight national media for revenue, they have to be more imaginative in

how they do business, and many put a lot of emphasis on sponsorship and

similar non-spot opportunities.

But there are still only a very small number of niche audiences being

adequately served by pan-European channels. Best served are the youth

market (MTV), and the business market (EBN, CNBC, CNNI), although there

are other audiences claimed by these and other channels.

The success of Cartoon Network in recent years, for example, has

produced a reasonably strong pan-European children’s buying opportunity

which also brings some housewives, and there is a good male sports fan

audience on Eurosport.

BBC World and NBC Europe have AB profiles and do not just appeal to

business people, according to Hickey. ’Eurosport also delivers a range

of different audiences depending on what sport is on,’ says Hickey.

’Women like tennis. Obviously for Indy Car you get a lot of men.’

Some of the potentially strong general entertainment PETV channels such

as NBC Europe have not, so far, carried as popular programming as they

could. But this may now be changing as well, according to agencies.

NBC is also one of the US companies that is in a position to expand the

PETV market by leveraging from its US base, offering big advertisers a

better deal in the US if they put some money into the European


NBC in the US has a huge amount of top-rated programming which it is now

beginning to pass to the European network before selling to national

networks like ITV and Channel 4.

The station’s European output is now divided between NBC Europe, which

carries business programming during the day before switching to

entertainment in the evening, and CNBC Europe, which is a 24-hour

business channel.

CNBC, which has been going for a year, has surged ahead of its closest

rival, EBN, with 2.7 million viewers, compared to EBN’s 1.7 million.

Despite CNBC’s ratings boast, agencies consistently say audience

measurement is the main problem with PETV. Although half a dozen of the

measurement systems in each country now measure pan-European channels

too, many of the channels do not subscribe to them. MTV, for example,

will not buy the GfK data in the crucial German market because it does

not take account of guest viewing which would put MTV’s figures up


Measured viewing

Leading the way in terms of audience measurement is Eurosport, which has

around 70% of its audience people-metered. Tom Keaveny, a Eurosport

sales director, says that for PETV channel research is crucial.

’For us it is additionally important in proving that we are bigger than

just a sports channel and have lots of different audiences. People tend

to think of PETV in terms of MTV for youth and CNN for the business

audience.’ He says the Eurosport revenues have grown from a 1994 index

of 100 to a projected 156 this year.

’The research argument has gone from harmonisation of data to

accessibility of data,’ says Workman. ’Harmonisation is too much to ask

for, but our argument is that if a channel is being measured it should

buy the data.’

Agencies say the new European Media Survey (EMS), which began in 1995,

is useful, but it only gives weekly reach and share of viewing and does

not allow agencies to build up pictures of how many people are watching

individual programmes. ’It’s a tool; it gives you an idea’, says


’It’s meaningless for TV,’ says Bridge. ’The audiences for different

sports on Eurosport, for example, are very different.’

Another problem is the inconsistency in viewing across different

countries (as a result of local tastes or distribution patterns),

meaning that some markets do not benefit as much from a pan-European

approach. France, for example, has a lower penetration of satellite and

cable TV channels than other countries and when a pan-European campaign

is being planned, there can be difficulties. ’It is not always easy to

get the French guy to chip in,’ says Bridge.

With PETV developing, pan-European print has had to defend its


’Print has become a lot more imaginative in order to combat TV, offering

integrated marketing packages with Web sites for example, and different

formats like gatefold,’ says Hickey. Time magazine, for example, has

decentralised its European editorial from the US, allowing it to focus

on subjects more relevant to the European audience. It is also trying to

increase its share of national advertising by introducing separate

advertising editions for the UK, France and Germany, where advertisers

wishing to target just one of these markets can appear.

In print, the language issue is more important than in PETV, so titles

tend to cater for the business traveller or AB demographic, but there is

National Geographic and Reader’s Digest which offer mass appeal.

Elite pan-Euro titles include the Wall Street Journal, Business Week,

The Economist, Time, Newsweek, Financial Times and the International

Herald Tribune.

Apart from adding the new territories of the old Eastern bloc to their

distribution, these titles have had to react to the added competition

posed by pan-European broadcasters. This has not necessarily been a bad

thing for them.

Chris Manning, associate publisher of Time magazine in Europe, Africa

and the Middle East, says: ’There is more competition now but the growth

of pan-European broadcast has helped to grow the international

advertising category.’


- Business people: CNBC, CNNI, EBN, BBC World, NBC, Euronews, Wall St

Jnl, Newsweek, Intl Herald Tribune, FT, Time, Business Week, Economist,


- 16- to 24-year-olds: MTV

- 16- to 34-year-olds: MTV, NBC Europe, TNT, Eurosport

- Men aged 16 to 44: Eurosport, BBC World, NBC Europe, Discovery,

National Geographic, The European

- Children: Cartoon Network

- Housewives with children: Cartoon Network

- Women aged 16 to 44: BBC Prime, NBC, Eurosport, Reader’s Digest,

National Geographic


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