News UK plans to use TalkSport to build out a powerful sport proposition that spans print, digital, video and audio, a strategy it hopes will push its journalism on to the airwaves for the first time and boost its sell to advertisers.
The broadcaster is “the jewel in the crown” of Wireless Group’s stable of radio and print products, according to News UK’s chief operating officer David Dinsmore, speaking after the publisher successfully completed the acquisition of Wireless Group on Monday (26 September) this week.
The acquisition of Wireless Group, which owns stations including TalkSport, TalkRadio, and recently relaunched Virgin Radio, makes sense for a business which is hinging the growth of the Sun brand on its sport-loving audience.
Over the past few years the publisher has launched a fantasy football game, Dream Team, which it claims has over one million players, betting proposition Sun Bets, and has secured the highlight rights for the Premier League and Scottish Premier League that it shares with Sky. That coupled with Wireless’ own sporting expertise poses a an attractive proposition to advertisers looking to reach sports fans across different devices.
All this is part of a wider recognition that print publishers “won’t just be able to monetise our journalism in the future purely by advertising”, Dinsmore said, insisting that “other revenue streams have to be involved”.
The launch of Sun Bets last month was emblematic of this thinking, marrying the news brand's content and commercial offerings for a specific subset of its audience. Sun Bets taps into the Sun’s sporting audience that are regular betters, who it claims are in an abundance since “50 per cent of the UK betting audience are Sun readers”. Little wonder then why Dinsmore thinks Sun Bets is “the big pillar of our sport proposition”.
Here lies the opportunity for TalkSport: “Everyone who listens to that [TalkSport radio] also wants to place bets on sport, so you can see how you have an advertising proposition, a B2C betting proposition, the Dream Team gaming and people buying the newspaper. There are a number of revenue streams developing through this.”
TalkSport signifies the evolving role of traditional media brands, which Dinsmore believes have refreshed value in the “cluttered world of media”.
“You can just listen to streamed music on Spotify but people want to have that connection to a DJ or a speech-based programme where they can interact or feel part of it. As the media world becomes more cluttered, people are going to want more and more discovery and editing. So it comes back towards the traditional media brands who can provide that,” he said.
“It is a great proxy for the rest of media,” he added.
Wireless Group’s chief operating officer Scott Taunton pointed out that radio is “a very resilient media”, as epitomised by News UK’s interest and subsequent purchase of its brands. Radio ad spend rose by 2.9 per cent to £127m in Q1 2016 according to the latest Advertising Association/WARC Expenditure Report data, and is forecast to remain on stable growth for the rest of the year. The acquisition marks a “great marriage of content”, Taunton said, when slotted into News UK’s inventory.
Dinsmore admitted “the tricky part” is monetising this content but pointed out that having a stable revenue base like radio in the mix “is hugely attractive” to advertisers. Furthermore, Wireless owns its content rather than bowing to holder rights in music radio, offering up further opportunities for News UK to repurpose and monetise the stations.
Traditional media is also devoid of the transparency and measurement issues that meant advertisers were not able to detect sooner the irregularities behind the way both Facebook and Dentsu Aegis traded media. It's publishers and old media that could benefit most from the recent furore over both scandals; their businesses centred upon well-established value propositions that stand tall against the fogginess of measurement in digital advertising.
“They are in the self-verified world of video,” Dinsmore said, “We are in the old world where we do things traditionally and get other people to verify our audience. I think this is a really powerful thing that we as an industry, broadcast and print media, need to get across to advertisers; that you have an externally verified audience with context that has high brand values, editorial values, and is regulated. It is a different world.”