Why is Emap spinning off media B2B brands Broadcast, Screen International and Shots at least a year before a proposed management buyout will take place?
I put the question to the man behind the proposed buyout, Emap media and architecture managing director (and former editor of Broadcast), Conor Dignam.
Dignam is taking over as CEO of the a new company containing the brands, Media Business Insight (MBI). He, says the team behind the buyout haven't had any "direct" contact with potential investors. The idea, he says, is to prove to potential backers that the brands are viable on their own, before seeking backers. But why couldn't they do that while still part of Emap?
--Strategic priorities: Dignam says the media brands simply don't fit with Emaps's priorities, which are to focus on areas it believes it can build scale such as retail and architecture. That meant both management and the media businesses themselves were keen to separate earlier rather than later.
--Group wide initiatives: According to Dignam, being separate will allow the the three brands to operate free of group-wide initiatives that might not have been in their best interests. He says: "We will now be able to move outside a set of decisions that are impacting across 18 brands and are rolled out across 18 brands and focus on the three brands that are the core of our business."
--Focus: As CEO of the new company, Dignam will be able to give the brands his full attention. He says: "My job before taking on this role ran across media and architecture, and I also had a number of group projects I was running across a number of brands. Now I am 100 percent focussed on this, and my group commercial director, who was also across media and architecture, is now 100 percent focused on this."
According to Dignam, the separation will be as close to complete as possible. Not only will Media Business Insight operate from a separate office, but the new company will have its own sales, marketing and finance teams, and its own profit and loss sheet.
Some services will still be bought from Emap in the short term, but Dignam says these will be restricted to areas such as IT where it is "essentially a supplier relationship". He says even these operations will be brought within the new company as soon as it "makes sense".
Heavy central costs have been the bane of many publications operating within large groups - and getting rid of ties with Emap's core is probably a good idea if the business wants to be successful and appeal to investors.
Of course, to persuade investors to back the management plans, the brands will have to demonstrate profitability and growth. Dignam says Emap owner Top Right will provide investment to develop areas of the business including events and data services.
Broadcast already runs a commissioning database called Greenlight (pictured below) and Screen International has a similar product called Screen Base.
Dignam says the new group will develop these services to a point at which it can start charging separately for them, rather than bundling them in with existing subscriptions.
"I absolutely believe development of those data products, delivering strong structured information about these markets is an important part of our development, says Dignam.
In terms of events, MBI plans to resurrect Broadcast's seminar and conference business - with the first new event to be held at some point next year. It will also continue developing Screen International's awards to complement the two successful events run by Broadcast (the Broadcast Awards and Broadcast Digital Awards).
And what of the print publications? Dignam is adamant that there won't be any changes: "I changed the frequency of screen two or three years ago because that was the right thing to do.
"There are no plans to do that for Broadcast. It remains a strong weekly print publication and our audience still want that to a large degree."
Image via flickr curtousey of Ernst Moeksis