Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Bauer Media

The Heat is on as Bauer looks to change its tune
Publisher of Closer and Grazia and owner of Kiss and Magic radio needs to close its deal

John Plunkett
Sunday 20 January 2013

This week MediaGuardian 25, our survey of Britain's most important media companies, covering TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, music and digital, looks at Bauer Media.

It might seem strange to suggest the biggest publisher of consumer magazines in the UK, including Grazia, Heat and FHM, is playing catch-up. But that is where Bauer Media finds itself in the other UK sector in which it operates.

Home to a stable of radio stations led by Kiss and Magic, the privately-owned German company lags behind the number one commercial player, Global Radio, which last year saw off a last-minute bid by Bauer to buy Smooth Radio owner GMG Radio.

No surprise, then, that Bauer has been closely linked with bids for two national music stations which are for sale, Absolute Radio, owned by the Times of India's parent company, and Malcolm Bluemel's Planet Rock.

Both are loss-making – Absolute to the tune of £4m a year – but Bauer, with rock stations Kerrang! and Q already in its portfolio, is well-equipped to make savings by co-locating or rebranding (probably both).

The business, which spans 42 radio stations and 56 consumer magazines, reaching around 19 million people in the UK every week, is part of the Hamburg-based Bauer Media Group.

The family-run company, led by 73-year-old chairman Heinz Bauer, paid £1.14bn for Emap's consumer magazine and radio divisions in 2007. Bauer's UK interests were previously limited to H Bauer, publisher of Take A Break. Enders Analysis described the purchase price at the time as "nothing short of miraculous" given the prevailing economic winds; it would fetch a fraction of that money today. In a tough magazine sector, Bauer's once market leading men's title FHM has run out of steam, eclipsed by Hearst's Men's Health, while the publishing sensation of the last decade, Heat, has been in steep decline in recent years, with celebrity gossip available on Mail Online and elsewhere.

Bauer's best print performer is said to be its celebrity weekly Closer. Launched in 2002, it is estimated to make a profit of around £9m a year, roughly double that of its other star performer, glossy weekly Grazia. Bauer, fiercely protective of such figures, does not comment.

The award-winning Grazia, edited by Jane Bruton, launched in 2005 and remains Bauer's most recent high profile launch (later titles have included the nerdy Wonderpedia and bi-monthly Landscape, aimed at nature-lovers). Bauer's attempt to create a "male Grazia" with Gaz7etta, an aspirational men's weekly (and the antithesis of another fading Bauer title, Zoo) failed to get past the pilot stage in 2010.

"The quality of what they do is very good, they are excellent magazine publishers," says one senior industry observer. "But they could be a little bit bolder when it comes to creating new concepts. When you are the market leader then you need to lead the market."

Paul Keenan, chief executive of Bauer Media in the UK, says a priority for the company is digital offshoots of existing big brands, whether that's a Grazia app or launching its film magazine Empire on the iPad in the US. "We want to launch a multimedia brand with a very strong print offering within it," he says.

"Print will continue to be an engaging platform for people who are passionate about something. We intend to continue to develop print products but will now surround those with digital extensions and additions which make the brand more useful and engaging and accessible."

One launch Bauer is said to have investigated is an upmarket magazine for older women – either a trendier version of Yours (which it also publishes) or a more mature Grazia, depending on your point of view. Keenan prefers not to comment, as he does on speculation regarding Absolute and Planet Rock.

Douglas McCabe, a media analyst at Enders Analysis, says: "The biggest challenge for Bauer is how do they cope in a mobile world when penetration of mobile devices – smartphones, tablets, even e-readers – grows into heartland Bauer territory, in other words the mass market."

Bauer is seen as a smart day-to-day business which keep costs under control, with Keenan regarded as a good operator who knows his market well.

The UK chief executive talks to Heinz Bauer at least once a week, and works closely with Saskia Bauer, one of the chairman's four daughters, all of whom have senior positions within the company.
More enthusiastic about digital radio than Global, Bauer has a number of digital-only radio stations, including The Hits and Smash Hits, as well as a radio spin-off of Heat which has also transferred to TV, one of seven stations on Box TV, Bauer's joint venture with Channel 4. Q also has its own radio station but its TV version was closed to make way for Heat.

If there is a criticism of Bauer it is a perceived inability to close a deal. Along with the GMG Radio stations that went to Global, Bauer was also interested – but ultimately missed out – in buying BBC Magazines two years ago and a batch of Global stations in the west Midlands in 2009.

Keenan responds: "We've said at the right price and at the right time in the right place, we will act."

It remains to be seen whether the song will remain the same at Planet Rock and Absolute, or if Bauer will find itself singing a different tune in coming weeks. Given the stations' respective playlists, expect it to be something by Guns 'N' Roses.

The numbers
Pre-tax profits: £57.3m* (£63.3m, 2010)
Revenues: £228m* (£246m, 2010)
Employees: 2,000
Radio: weekly reach 13.4m, 10.8% share
Magazines: total reach 8.6m readers
* excludes radio stations, full year 2011

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Trying to beat the pirates...

January 13, 2013 – 4:57 am

Even before the 2013 Oscar nominees were announced on January 10, 2013, there were already many movies in the running. One of them, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, is currently getting a huge thumbs up from the Internet. Last weekend a perfect review copy leaked online and in just 24 hours racked up 500,000 downloads. The Hobbit, currently the most popular Oscars leak, has more than two million downloads to date with a week’s head start over Tarantino’s western. By Enigmax of TorrentFreak.
With the Academy Awards just weeks away, January is an exciting time for movie lovers around the world. In the run up to “Oscar Sunday” on February 24, the nominees were announced on January 10 following the deliberations of 5,700 Academy members.
Some of those voters will have made their assessments from a trip to the theater but some highly privileged individuals will have received a piece of cinematic gold from the studios – access to pre-release copies of all the top movies “for their consideration.”
The industry has worked very hard indeed to keep movies from leaking onto the Internet so these early copies are handed out amid tight security. The availability of a dreadful ‘camcordered’ copy online is annoying enough but a perfect digital copy is a nightmare for the studios. To this end, while physical DVD copies still appear to be issued, these days so-called “screeners” are also distributed to Academy members digitally.
However, it appears to make very little difference what kind of security measures are put in place, movies still leak online. As 2012 entered its final months the tell-tale signs that screeners were being sent out became obvious online after they became available on BitTorrent tagged “DVDSCR”.
Billy Bob Thornton’s Jayne Mansfield’s Car appeared online in October 2012 followed by thrillers Citadel and The Sweeney in November.
With Christmas round the corner, December certainly delivered the treats. The Perks of Being a Wallflower starring Emma Watson, Denzel Washington’s Flight, Lincoln from veteran Steven Spielberg, and James Bond’s latest outing Skyfall all found their way onto the web from screener copies.
And in January the bonanza continued. The first new leak of the year, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, has proven a massive hit with file-sharers. According to statistics gathered by TorrentFreak the fantasy movie has been downloaded at least two million times since it appeared on the first of the month.
Just three days later and the Osama Bin Laden hunt movie Zero Dark Thirty was debuting online, joined on the same day by a copy of Anthony Hopkins’ Hitchcock.
Last weekend was particularly busy as The Sessions made its appearance along with West of Memphis, Celeste & Jesse Forever, Anna Karenina and Hyde Park on Hudson.
But there was also a very big leak, one that millions of people have been waiting for and could turn out to be the biggest so far this Oscar season. Django Unchained, the latest movie from much-loved writer/director Quentin Tarantino, appeared online January 5 (Saturday) and quickly caught fire.
The western, which stars Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio, became an immediate smash-hit on BitTorrent. Statistics gathered Sunday by TorrentFreak show that the movie was downloaded at least 500,000 times in its first 24 hours online.
And, as an interesting footnote, people wanting to blame these stats on The Pirate Bay will be disappointed. Although it is back online now, the world’s most famous torrent site was offline all day on January 6 and played no part in proceedings.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Another exam-style question and plan for the AS January exam...

What significance does the continuing development of digital media technology have for media institutions and audiences?

1. New developments all the time
2. Recent developments can be illustrated in the use of technological convergence to promote films – look at official film websites e.g. Slumdog a) streaming of video material b) flash technology c) links to games etc to increase interactivity, which in turn creates the illusion of giving the audience a sense of ownership so they will be more likely to see the film/DVD d) links to social networking (sites such as…), which again creates a sense of interactivity e) links to reviews, interviews etc. f) the Long Tail effect – the film website will act as a promotional tool for the DVD/BluRay long after the film has finished being exhibited in cinemas. On some websites, such as those for Sony films, there are links to other upcoming Sony films. Note the advantages of being a vertically integrated company like Sony.
3.  IMAX and 3D - Blockbuster films developed for IMAX as well as regular screening; some in 3D – increasingly popular over last few years – now not just action movies (the Life Of Pi, for example) but these are the type of big budget event movies that show off  this kind of technology. Note that not all cinemas are geared up for this level of development. The Hobbit - shot at 48 frames per second, as opposed to the industry standard of 24 - director Peter Jackson thought it offers a sgarper image and reflects the real way of seeing - but only cinemas can show it this way and critics have complained the visuals resemble those of a video game and were too 'shiny'.
4. Viral marketing – look at Slumdog, again…
5. Use of phones to watch trailers, films, to browse the net for information about films
6. Use of digital movie cameras and editing – refer to Slumdog and Amber… But note that while many film directors are going difital, some, like Christopher Nolan, want to stick to traditional 35 mm - see - but also notice a few of the potential pitfalls - cinemas will have to undergo an expensive conversion for digital exhbition, but arthouse/second run cinemas will not be able to show older movies; some people think the digital image deteriorates over time, as was the case with Toy Story.
7. Owners of social network sites target adverts, including those for films, to individuals based on their profiles
8. Use of CGI – can create more realistic effects; can create the illusion of crowds, landscapes and cityscapes that could save money – although over reliance on effects can lead to movies where the effects are the main reason to see the movie! However, these kind of films are popular with the main cinema-going audience, the 16-25 year-olds
9. Digital distribution and exhibition – what state is it currently in the UK? What are the hopes for future development? How does a small, independent company like Amber use new technology to promote and distribute their works?
10. Legal downloads – has the music industry shown the way? Will the trend be for people to download from sites such as netflix?
11. Illegal downloads – how have companies tried to combat this i.e. early DVD/BluRay releases…
12. The audience as prosumers… audiences use social networking sites –post their own reviews, post trailers from YouTube, post their own mash-ups, post songs from the soundtracks. These sites have a potential audience of millions. Some ‘audience’ sites, like have been quoted in press reviews. Negative reviews/comments on widely read sites like this can have an effect on other users and make up their minds about whether or not they see the film.

Exam style question and plan for AS January exam

Successful media products depend as much on marketing and distribution to a specific audience as they do upon good production practices. To what extent do you agree with this statement?

1. Film distribution = everything that happens between the film being made and it being exhibited, whether in a cinema, on DVD, TV, the internet or anywhere else. Distribution is the most important part of the film industry, where completed films are brought to life and connected with an audience
2. Distribution is about releasing and sustaining films in the market place. In the practice of Hollywood and other forms of industrial cinema, the phases of production, distribution and exhibition operate most effectively when 'vertically integrated', where the three stages are seen as part of the same larger process, under the control of one company. In the UK, distribution is very much focused on marketing and sustaining a global product in local markets.
3. In the independent film sector, vertical integration does not operate so commonly. Producers tend not to have long-term economic links with distributors, who likewise have no formal connections with exhibitors. Here, as the pig-in-the-middle, distribution is necessarily a collaborative process, requiring the materials and rights of the producer and the cooperation of the exhibitor to promote and show the film in the best way possible.
4. 50% of money spent on a film often goes on promotion Film is a business like any other; it doesn’t rely on waiting and listening to audience response before delivering the product; it relies on knowing which part of the world and the media need its products and will pay for them. Does market forces competition give the consumer more power and choice and, therefore, influence, what’s made OR does it convince us that what we want is being made for us? Do millions go to see The Dark Knight when it opens because it’s a great film or because it’s been well-marketed? Or both?
5. Promotion involves above the line advertising, such as posters, trailers, billboards and spin-offs and promotional partners. It also involves related merchandising and below the line publicity which is not paid for but generates mutual interest. For example, an interview with a star in a newspaper or reviews in a magazine. Not all films are treated equally.
6. Bigger companies (i.e. those Hollywood majors like Sony-Columbia) have more financial muscle to promote their product and the big companies who control much of the industry, control not only the distribution of their own products, but that of others (Fox, for example, distributed Slumdog Millionaire in the USA and Canada).
7. However, the product itself can be ‘shaped’ or ‘tailored’ to certain audiences. Slumdog was devised in a way that it would appeal to a global audience – explain how – talk about the significance of the deal with Celador, of hiring the particular writer and director; the significance of the Indian nationality of most of the crew; the language; the cast; the storyline and the way it was changed from the already successful source material; the style of filming.
8. Beyond that, though, the film had to carefully marketed and distributed – look at the deals made to ensure distribution around the world, because Celador/Film 4 isn’t a vertically integrated company with its own distribution companies in other countries.
9. Look at the way it shown in film festivals – especially in Toronto, a city with a large Asian population.
10. Look at the effect of its platform release
11. What about the marketing/promotional tactics – backed by Fox, the director amd stars had access to Fox TV shows and Fox websites to promote Slumdog; the film had its own website – what was on it? How was the film promoted using the website? Use of social networking and below the line adbertising by fans of the film on their social networking sites? Viral marketing?
12. Note the long tail effect of the way the film’s release and its website serve to promote the DVD and BluRay releases long after the film has been shown in cinemas