Trendspotting #4

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The Independent Online

You have to feel sorry for the cable television industry. In 1996, it really pulled out all the stops: in the final quarter of the year it had its highest ever increase in subscribers - 257,000 - giving cable its highest penetration rate for four years, according to the latest figures from the ITC. The industry also did a lot more road-digging, so that cable now passes 8.3 million homes. The only problem is that it may all have come too late. In January, BSkyB, Granada and Carlton made clear their intention to make digital terrestrial the delivery system of the future.


Arguing about what TV programme to watch is often the only form of conversation in some households. Soon maybe even that will be gone. Latest research shows that 38 per cent of homes now have two TV sets and 19 per cent have three or more. Those who worry about children's viewing habits take the multiplication of sets to mean children watching hours' more TV in their rooms. It is worth noting, therefore, that the people paying for the extra sets are the ones doing most of the watching. Adults watch an average of 25 hours a week, whereas the under-12s watch a comparatively modest 17.


Britain is racing ahead of its partners in the European Union in at least one respect. Advertising expenditure in the UK in 1996 rose by double the rate of that in the rest of the EU. Makes you proud, doesn't it? The UK advertising spend of pounds 8.2bn grew at 4.5 per cent, compared with total growth in the the EU of 2.7 per cent, according to research by NTC Publications. Still, we have a long way to go to reach the growth rate of Estonia, which tops NTC's global league table with 150 per cent growth in 1995.


At least some of that money spent on advertisers' precious brands is being wasted. It seems that 41 per cent of shoppers think supermarkets' own-label products, such as Asda's Pelican chocolate biscuits, contain the same product as other brands. Equally worrying, 17 per cent of shoppers in the study, by Marketing magazine, had bought supermarket imitations by mistake. Not surprisingly, McVitie's, makers of Penguin, are taking court action to get Asda to p-p-pull its Pelicans.


Good news last week for lovers of punctuation. Last year, a tizz broke out among women's weekly magazines, where they are so keen on exclamation marks a la Hello!. Four magazines were launched, and a mini price war broke out. All this managed to increase sales for weeklies by only 200,000 - a measly amount considering that the market leader, Woman, sells more than 800,000. Last week, Bauer closed Enjoy!, one of the new titles. Industry experts predict more magazine closures

Paul McCann