IDS closure means big battalions win UK airtime sales battle

UKTV, one of the biggest digital-only broadcasters in the UK, has awarded its airtime sales contract to Channel 4, consigning to extinction its long-time airtime sales house IDS, owned by Virgin TV.

IDS’ demise has been on the cards since Virgin sold its content business to Sky last month. Sales of Virgin channels moved to Sky Media leaving IDS with just UKTV. Now Virgin has pulled the plug.

100 jobs may go with the loss of IDS adding to the 80 that disappeared in January when US broadcaster Viacom decided it didn’t need its own sales company Viacom Brand Solutions any more and moved the business to Sky.

So now in the UK we have ITV with just under 50 per cent of the TV airtime sales market, Channel 4 with about 24 per cent and Sky on about 17. Most of Sky TV’s revenue comes from subscriptions.

In the independent sector of the airtime market this leaves plucky independent Media Icon, which handles Motors TV, the Travel Channel, Liverpool FC and film news and gossip channel 24 among others as just about the only standard-bearer.

This trend is bad news for people wanting to start their own digital channels or existing owners who want to do something different with them. The big three package up the ratings they’ve got and sell them to agencies in block deals. Being different, or even original, gets lost in the rush.

It’s also bad news for those former ITV salesmen who are still around and were once employed by the various regional fiefdoms in ITV.

Not needed any more I’m afraid.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.