Magazine article Marketing

Jeremy Lee on Media: Hauled over the Cobbles

Magazine article Marketing

Jeremy Lee on Media: Hauled over the Cobbles

Article excerpt

ITV's over-reliance on Coronation Street offers a warning to would-be television-empire builders.

When Sir Philip Green, the Arcadia tycoon, joined forces with fellow Sandy Lane holiday-resort regular Simon Cowell earlier this year, the worlds of business and entertainment - and acquisitiveness and naked ambition - collided.

Both have been reluctant to talk about the nature of their joint venture, leaving it to 'friends' to disclose that they hoped to create an international television business spanning content and merchandise that will rival Disney.

Perhaps it is no surprise then that Cowell is stalling negotiations with ITV over the renewal of his three-year contract. After all, if Cowell had any sense - or listened to the advice of the serial deal-maker Green - he would realise that the broadcaster's fortunes are overly reliant on formats owned by him.

Indeed, if he really wanted to play hardball, Cowell would walk away from the reported pounds 24m on the table, sit back and watch ITV's share price plummet. This would leave the way clear for Green and him to make a bid for the network, creating the foundations for a Disney-style empire built on an audience already appreciative of Cowell's particular oeuvre.

ITV must surely be aware of its exposure, which is why it is so desperate to come up with successful programme formats of its own and then exploit them as much as it can. Sadly, aside from Coronation Street, its cupboard is currently pretty bare.

Being one of the 50m-odd people who don't watch Corrie, I didn't think I would enjoy the one-off drama The Road to Coronation Street, but I was intrigued by the light it shed on the ludicrous dynamic within British television. Here was an ITV production about the most-famous ITV programme being shown - presumably because such dramas do not attract sufficiently big audiences to make them commercially viable - on the BBC.

I ended up liking it. Aside from a superb cast - although it would be interesting to know what the Corrie creator Tony Warren made of his arch-camp depiction - and an element of dramatic suspense, it was heart-warming, funny and a little bit nostalgic. This is exactly what the remarkably loyal viewers of the soap, which celebrates its 50th birthday this year, say about it, too.

Whether they are still saying this by the time the actual anniversary comes around on 6 December is a moot point, given ITV's determination to squeeze every last possible drop of value out of the franchise Holland's Pies, brewer JW Lees, Warburtons, Imperial Leather, Typhoo and current broadcast sponsor Harveys have all signed up as promotional partners, giving them the right to include Coronation Street branding on their products and in marketing. …

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