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Can independent sales house thrive in the current TV market?

10 years ago, the UK TV landscape had double the sales points that now exist, with the likes of IDS (Virgin Media’s ad sales house), Viacom and Channel 5 all offering unique opportunities to advertisers and agencies alike. Although many of the same channels can still be accessed today, the way they are sold has changed markedly.

Consolidation amongst the sales points resulted in deliverance of 95% of commercial audience by the ‘big 3’ sales houses; ITV, Channel 4 and Sky. Sky Media has been particularly aggressive in their pursuit of audience growth in the last decade by acquiring channels from six former TV sales points. Today, Sky Media provides sales representation for more than 130 TV channels and delivers a larger proportion of commercial audience than ITV and C4 every month. So, can the remaining independent sales points continue to fight the good fight in 2016?

All Response Media Viewpoint

Now, there are a number of independents continuing to operate successfully in today’s market. For example, Ethnic Media Sales and AXIOM have grown their station portfolios significantly this year, adding more niche channels and reclaiming audience share previously taken by the ‘big 3’. The independents’ channels might not deliver a glut of audience comparative to the ‘big 3’, however our analysis indicates these channels can be highly response efficient. Combine that efficiency with the alacrity for flexible trading and you have a recipe for continued support and ultimately growth.

Interestingly, a significant proportion of what Sky sells is effectively a scaled up version of the independents’ offering – smaller channels that together deliver scale in the marketplace. Understandably, Sky has turned this into a commodity sell rather than a bespoke approach that showcases the benefits and opportunity of each channel in its own right. This will inevitably work for some but certainly not all stations they represent. This in itself might represent an opportunity for the independents to claim back some more of that audience share.

In an era of consolidation that has seen the emphasis of the ‘big 3’ sales points evolve from an airtime sell to focus on partnerships, tech advancements and content development, the independents could be viewed as a throwback to a different time. The reality is they sell many of the same opportunities but on a smaller scale, and they do so in the knowledge that going the extra mile might just secure them budget that may have previously been earmarked elsewhere.