To those of a certain age the notion of the venerable Radio Times being snapped up by a German publisher is eyebrow-raising. Good job BBC founder Lord Reith is no longer with us.
But privately-owned German group Burda Media is buying Radio Times publisher Immediate Media which also owns Top Gear and CBeebies, other BBC spin-offs, for a healthy (or crazy, depending on your point of view) £260m.
Burda may be best known as a magazine publisher but it also has an extensive array of digital properties including Xing, a social network for professionals popular in Austria, Germany and Switzerland; HolidayCheck, a competitor to TripAdvisor plus a stake in digital marketplace Etsy. It also has a majority of Cliqz, described as a “pro-privacy” browser.
Radio Times sales have fallen from nearly nine million in the days when it and TV Times had a monopoly of listings but 660,000 or so today but Burda says it’s still profitable. Some big traditional publishers appear to be gambling that, although print is in sharp decline, there’ll still be room for them if they can snap up enough of their smaller rivals.
They also hope that the current fracas over fake news and the like on Google and social media will rein in the big news and information aggregators who are currently hoovering up the mast majority of digital display advertising. Given the ferocious lobbying power and financial clout of these organisations, that may be a vain hope.