Buyers predict ITV-prompted sales mergers

Merger talks between the sales arms of Channel 4, BSkyB, Viacom, Channel 5 and IDS are inevitable if a unified ITV gets the go-ahead, say media buyers.

Granada and Carlton Communications announced on Friday that they are in merger talks, but have yet to confirm how their sales houses – which together take 54 per cent of TV ad revenue – will operate.

They are understood to be considering either retaining one sales house within the merged company – while allowing the other to sell ITV as an independent operation – or having two independent sales operations.

Carat broadcast director Mark Jarvis says: “If there is deregulation of the ITV market, the other broadcasters will inevitably try to counteract any commercial market abuse or leverage that that would create.”

Channel 4 commercial director Andy Barnes, who is fiercely opposed to the Carlton-Granada merger on competition grounds, admits that if Channel 4 felt it was being commercially undermined, it would explore every avenue available to it to improve its position. This could be through legal action to prevent the deal going ahead, or by talking to other ad sales houses about a merger.

Many in the TV industry believe Carlton and Granada will find it difficult to convince the competition authorities to let the merger go ahead. They ruled against a merger between Carlton and United News Media in 2000 on the grounds of unfair competition.

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