UK media prepares for a crunch week
Monday 25 August 2008
Heading into a week packed with half-year results from the UK media sector, analysts expect the winners and losers to line up according to their exposure to the febrile consumer market.
The broadcasters UTV and SMG will be there, as will the public relations group Chime and the market researcher TNS. Johnston Press will be representing the newspaper publishers, and Bloomsbury its bookish counterparts. The advertising giant Aegis and Pinewood Shepperton, the film studio, are also on the list.
Against a backdrop of slowing economic growth, the media sector is no easy place to be. "The key message is things are going to be slightly worse rather than slightly better," Steve Liechti, an analyst at Investec, said.
Media companies' struggles with the impact of the internet are being exacerbated by the downturn. "There are three factors all happening at once: the structural, the cyclical, and the structural multiplied by the cyclical," Mr Liechti said. "All of which makes for a pretty miserable outlook in the near term."
According to analyst predictions for this week, the sector splits into two. On one side are the business-to-business and global companies, which are expected to remain broadly stable. Worse hit are the consumer-facing groups, particularly broadcasters and newspapers.
Fresh from the slew of bad news from Trinity Mirror – including ad sales down 8 per cent and predictions of double-digit falls for the rest of the year – Johnston Press is not expected to reveal any surprises. But the City will be looking closely for an update on performance in July and August, particularly with regard to property advertising.
Broadcasting is equally grim. ITV's interim figures earlier this month included a goodwill writedown of £1.6bn against the falling ad market. With this in mind, UTV is expected to perform relatively well, and it has the benefit of radio assets, particularly talkSport. SMG, which had a rescue rights issue last year, will see a boost from the fire sale of Virgin Radio in June.
The business-to-business groups have a stronger hand to play. TNS is doing well enough to have attracted a hostile bid from WPP that may yet turn into a bidding war with GfK. Aegis, the market leader in 13 European countries, is big enough to benefit from the strong euro and to absorb weakness in individual areas.
Bloomsbury is still riding on a series of strong authors, including JK Rowling and Khalid Hosseini; and Pinewood will be boosted by the latest James Bond film and The Wolf Man.
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