Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: SMG Sell-Off Flies in the Face of Logic

Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: SMG Sell-Off Flies in the Face of Logic

Article excerpt

It is difficult to know how to do full justice to the scale of the current debacle at SMG, the owner of Scottish Television and Virgin Radio.

Within a matter of weeks there has been a boardroom coup led by investors who have had a stake in the group only since December, and protracted talks for a merger with UTV have finally been called off.

In addition, Virgin Radio has been put up for sale - sorry, I meant prepared for a stock market float. Cinema advertising group Pearl & Dean, already valued at zero on SMG's books, is judged surplus to requirements, and outdoor group Primesight has also been put on the market, as long as the price is better than those currently on offer.

The really intriguing thing, though, is that SMG's new chief executive, Rob Woodward, the former commercial director of Channel 4, who has replaced experienced SMG TV hand Donald Emslie, has a cunning plan.

It is so very fiendishly cunning that it is extraordinarily difficult to deconstruct. Woodward wants to get rid of all those other media distractions, such as radio, cinema advertising and outdoor in which SMG has invested - too expensively, it has to be conceded - over the years Now, he plans to focus entirely on regional - sorry, national - Scottish commercial television and Scottish television production; in other words, Taggart and Rebus.

This must be a totally brilliant idea. After all, no one else has thought of such a thing - a retreat to regional TV based around Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen at a time when media is becoming not just national, but global. Completely amazing. What a flight of the human imagination. Perhaps it is a business strategy inspired by the excellent BBC series Life on Mars, with a twist of time travel added courtesy of Dr Who.

Conventional minds might think it a little odd to sell - sorry, float - Virgin Radio, and with it one of the UK's three national commercial stations at the bottom of the cycle for the medium. It could easily bring in less than pounds 95m.

Such inadequate, misguided people might also see outdoor as a medium more resilient to the threat from the internet than other traditional media and should be something to be cherished and developed rather than destabilised.

They might go even further and judge cinema advertising to be a nice, profitable advertising niche, where it is possible to confront, at least on Saturday nights, the missing young consumer. …

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