Pearson aims to create new TV identity

MATHEW HORSMAN

Fresh from its victiory in the battle for Channel 5, Pearson, the media giant, is poised to restructure its television interests, consolidating its main broadcasting and production operations under a new name and a new corporate identity.

The group, which publishes the Financial Times and owns the Tussaud amusements group, Penguin Books and Mindscape, the CD-Rom venture, has hired Marketplace Design of Abingdon to advise on the new look.

Pearson TV, the current name of the group's television subsidiary run by Greg Dyke, the former head of London Weekend Television, may get a new name by Christmas, according to insiders.

The decision to relaunch Pearson TV has been driven by a concern at board level that the television side and the corporate parent are too often confused in the minds of investors, and that this has not helped Pearson plc's share price.

"The name Pearson TV was set up without much thought,'' said one company source, "and before we added new companies.''

Whatever new name is eventually decided upon, Pearson is likely to retain both the Thames Televison and Grundy Worldwide trademarks, since both these operations have high recognition value in the industry.

The television side is emerging as a core holding at Pearson, and is set to grow larger with the likely addition of ACI, the American television distribution company, if current negotiations are successful.

Pearson is also a frontrunner in the bidding for SelecTV, the producer of Birds of a Feather, which is for sale.

SelecTV was a member of a rival bid for Channel 5, which failed the quality threshold for programming set by the Independent Television Commision.

Pearson TV insiders hint that other acquistions are likely, especially in the run-up to the launch of Channel 5 in 1997, and the advent of digital TV later in this decade.

Pearson's TV buying spree, launched by its 1992 acquisition of Thames Television, has received mixed reviews in the City. Many analysts were concerned that the company was paying too much for acquisitions, particularly following its purchase earlier this year of Grundy Worldwide, the makers of Neighbours, for pounds 175m.

But the launch of UK Gold with the BBC, along with the Channel 5 win, have forced some analysts to rethink.

With its strong emphasis on programming rights, coupled with a stake in a major national broadcaster, Pearson TV has reassured the doubters.

A final decision on the new name and logo will be taken in the next few weeks.

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