Sky Media's MTV ad sales deal is a sign of the times

It has been noted in these pages several times that everyone is talking to everyone in this distressed economic climate. No deal or partnership, no matter how unlikely, is off the agenda - especially in TV ad sales.

Steve Barrett is editor of Media Week
Steve Barrett is editor of Media Week

But amid talk of Channel 4 hooking up with Sky or Five, IDS being subsumed in Sky or Viacom as a result of a sale of Virgin Media TV, or BBC Worldwide linking up with any of these parties, one deal not mentioned - at least in public - was the one that just happened.

Sky Media has built on its retention of Discovery's ad sales by stealing the £75m-a-year sales contract for MTV Networks International, which BSkyB owns jointly with Viacom Inc, from the Nick Bampton-led Viacom Brand Solutions. Sky Media will sell across MTV, Viva, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET (and E! Entertainment) from 1 January.

The new arrangements apparently guarantee MTV its ad revenue for the next five years, although at 2009 rates, and could save it £4-5m in costs in each of these years.

It is likely to already be involved in 2010 TV trading negotiations for the channels. And it almost certainly means the end for incumbent VBS, putting the future of Bampton and other senior managers among 75 staff at the sales house in considerable doubt.

It is small reward for Bampton and his team, above whose heads the deal was done between Sky Media's Nick Milligan, BSkyB chief executive Jeremy Darroch, MTV Networks UK & Ireland managing director David Lynn and head of international Bob Bakish. But they have fallen victim to a vicious business environment where doing a great job, being innovative and being creative aren't necessarily enough to retain contracts - as many media agencies will testify.

It's a sign of the times. It's a sign that everyone is in the middle of 2010 planning. And I have a feeling it certainly won't be the only eye-catching development in media-land before the difficult year that has been 2009 draws to a close.

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