Magazine article Marketing

Brand Health Check: GMTV

Magazine article Marketing

Brand Health Check: GMTV

Article excerpt

The phone-in scandal has exacerbated the broadcaster's woes as it struggles to retain its audience.

Panorama's recent implication of GMTV as the latest broadcaster to be involved in the premium-rate phone-in scandal sweeping the UK TV industry has piled additional pressure on a station whose medium- to long-term future is by no means secure.

The current-affairs programme from the BBC - whose flagship children's show Blue Peter is also embroiled in the farrago - claimed that GMTV viewers had been cheated out of an estimated pounds 10m a year over the past four years because shortlists of potential winners were finalised long before competition phone lines closed.

GMTV disputed Panorama's figures, but moved swiftly to limit the damage by wheeling out its managing director to apologise to viewers on-air and severing its contract with Opera Interactive Technology, the company that ran its phone-in competitions. However, the scandal is just the latest episode in a saga that GMTV's shareholders, ITV and Disney, would surely prefer to forget.

According to figures from Universal McCann, GMTV's total ad revenue has declined from pounds 60.5m in 2004 to an estimated pounds 53.8m in 2007, while its share of total TV revenue has fallen from 1.78% to 1.59% over the same period. A further threat is looming in the form of the ban on advertising foods that are high in fat, salt or sugar to children - its core trading audiences are housewives, children and housewives with children.

Predicted audiences for 2007 don't look that promising either - estimates are that its share of audience this year will fall by a total of 6%.

Of course, GMTV is, like all the other terrestrial channels, a victim of the growth of multichannel. It has tried to minimise its impact by launching a parallel GMTV2 service on ITV2, but with limited success.

However, its real problem is that the core channel continues to lose viewers; it is being beaten in the morning news ratings battle by BBC Breakfast and without action its audience decline may be irreversible. The recent phone-voting scandal will have further knocked confidence in the station among its viewers.

We asked Barnaby Dawe, managing director of Heart 106.2 and a former director of marketing at Sky Networks, and Sue Unerman, chief strategy officer at MediaCom, for their assessment of where GMTV should go next.

DIAGNOSIS 1 - BARNABY DAWE, MANAGING DIRECTOR, HEART 106.2

I've never understood how people manage to get ready in the morning and watch TV at the same time. That said, if I'm ever off sick, I like the occasional fix of GMTV as an antidote to the more serious BBC Breakfast. A bit like reading the Daily Mail without the fear-mongering, it's a guilty pleasure. There's something cosy, comforting and non-challenging about it. …

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