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A syndication market in the U.K.?

Recent legal, industry and regulatory developments are about to culminate in the creation of the UK's first ever secondary program market for syndicating productions already seen on the national networks.

Legal: the {990 Broadcasting Act which stipulated that at least 25 per cent o[ programs transmitted shou Id originate from independent producers.

Industry: the November {992 launch of UK Gold, the $71 million entertainment satellite channel dominated by the second transmission of prime ti me programs first seen on the BBC's public broadcast channels and on ITV.

Regulatory: the December 1992 announcement by the Office of Fair Trading (OFF) stated that traditional networking arrangements, such as when commercial ITV channel controlled the rights of programs it commissioned, were anti-competitive

These developments mean the growing independent sector, which produced programs worth an estimated pounds 250 million in 1992 (increasing to pounds 500m by 199S) will have for the first time in Britain's 50-year TV history the potential to earn income from second transmission in their home territory.

"I think it will be madness not to have a secondary market. It is the secondary market that makes money," said Roger Miron. director of sales for Thames Television International (TTVI). His enthusiasm is understandable. Thames Television's parent company ceased to be an ITV broadcaster this year and has become the country's largest independent.

ITV's new to-year franchise period began last month. It has employed its first network scheduler, Marcus Plantin, to commission programs centrally - instead of through each regional ITV broadcaster. A secondary market is even all the more important now that a more aggressive ITV channel has threatened to shift peak-time programs that failed to cross the eight million viewer threshold.

One company that has been fighting the conventional ITV system long before it became fashionable to do so is SelecTV, which made the successful Tracy Ullman shows in the U.S. Determined to retain its program rights, the company sold its shares on the Stock Exchange, set up its own distribution arm. The TV Sales Company, and acquired a 15 per cent stake in Meridian Broadcasting, one of the new ITV franchise owners. "The launch of UK Gold can only be good news." said Allan McKeown, SelecTV's chief executive.

UK Gold began transmission via the Astra satellite on November 1. The 20-hours-a-day advertising-supported channel. which was rounded by BBC Enterprises and Thames Television, will have exclusive access to the BBC and Thames' combined library of almost 130,000 hours of programming. TCI, the US's largest cable operator, recently acquired a 27 per cent share m UK Gold, reducing Cox's original 65 per cent share to 37 per cent. This move completed the financing UK Gold required.

Trevor Barton, corporate secretary to the ITV Association, said that the ITV companies are seriously considering a satellite service to rival UK Gold. ITV2, which will feature repeats from the original ITV archives and cost an estimated pounds 30 million, will help establish a secondary sales market in the UK.

But the OFT's recent report set the secondary market in concrete. It recommended that (a)independents must have direct access to the central scheduler during contract negotiations; (b) independents be permitted to sell rights for only five years, plus an option for another two years; (c) ITV can no longer insist on having exclusive rights to a second series of the corn missioned program. A jubilant PACT, the UK independent producers trade alliance, has been popping the champagne corks.

The ITV Association, however. has threatened to appeal against the OFFs recommendations. Chairman Greg Dyke, also group chief executive of London

Weekend Television, said they placed the ITV network at an unfair position because Channel 4, BSkyB and the BBC are not restricted by similar regulations. If it does appeal, the UK commercial IV business can expect the birth of the syndicated market to be delayed by several more months. But the birth is inevitable. I
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Title Annotation:U.K. Report
Author:Koranteng, Juliana
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Previous Article:UK cable to challenge satellite nets. TCI bets on it.
Next Article:Carlton TV - friend or foe?

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