Trendspotting #7


The BBC's multi-channel future looks rosier thanks to a big vote of support from 5,000 final-year students. The network comes out on top in a study carried out by MTV, which shows that 75 per cent of students watch BBC1 every day, compared with 67 per cent who watch some ITV. Favourite programme in student houses is EastEnders. Friends came in second, but the BBC dominated the student Top 30 TV programmes with 18 shows compared with Channel 4's seven and ITV's five. If the BBC can keep these viewers happy, it may be able to persuade them to continue to pay - or start to pay - the licence fee when there are hundreds of channels to choose from.


After careful thought, the Independent Television Commission gave the go-ahead last week to "masthead programming" - turning well-known magazines into TV programmes (albeit only on cable and satellite channels). The ITC was previously worried that a Cosmopolitan show or suchlike would end up as a 30-minute ad for the magazine rather than a real programme. In Australia, Better Homes and Gardens was turned into a TV programme on the Seven Network and promptly increased its sales by 37 per cent, according to Media Week. But they don't have much to worry about here. IPC's Ideal Home magazine currently sells more than 200,000, while IPC's Ideal Home Cooks programme, going out on the Carlton cable channel, is hoping only for an audience of around 30,000. Hardly an appetite for global domination.


Lord Leverhulme's famous statement - that he knew half of his advertising was wasted but he didn't know which half - doesn't seem to apply to the pounds 1.5m that Scottish Courage has spent on Foster's recently - it looks as if it is all wasted. The lager's "Tickle It You Wrigglers" TV ads managed to score a high awareness level of 71 per cent, according to research by Carat Insight. But the research found that only 5 per cent of lager drinkers would be more likely to drink Foster's because of the ads. More worryingly, 10 per cent said they were less likely to drink it now they'd seen the ads.


ITV takes a steady-as-she-goes attitude with its big dramas such as Cracker, Prime Suspect and London's Burning. The same series come back season after season once they prove themselves as ratings boosters. Last week, though, saw a new name but an old face enter the pantheon of ITV's crime blockbusters. A one-off called Midsomer Murders starring John Nettles, old Bergerac himself, managed to steal 3 million viewers from the BBC's Hamish Macbeth when shown about a week ago. Such success probably guarantees it another five seasons.


Last year big media conglomerates such as EMAP, Reed Elsevier and Thompson decided it was time to get out of regional newspapers. But perhaps their decisions were premature. The regional press has slowed down its long- term sales decline, according to the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Sales in the last half of 1996 fell just 1.5 per cent to 12.5m copies a week. In all, 45 per cent of regional newspapers reported a sales increase compared with just 29 per cent the year before. Evening and Sunday regionals, which take on the national press directly, had bigger falls than the weekly papers and the papers that serve small communities fared best, proving that people do still want local news. Or maybe the big conglomerates didn't get out too early, and the sales lift happened because they did?n

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