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Rigorous Fearless Independent

"Shareholders calling for a break-up of the company to unlock shareholder value might feel that their cause is set back, with E& on the board, given E&’s ambition to become a global telecom and technology player," said Karen Egan, telecoms expert at Enders Analysis, who added that the appointment was unlikely to pose security risks.

According to press reports, VMO2 is in early stage discussions over buying TalkTalk’s consumer retail broadband business, but not its wholesale business, which may leave the latter in limbo.

There is strong industrial logic to the deal, with a sub-brand useful, and significant synergies from moving the TalkTalk base to VMO2’s network, with the latter gain at Openreach’s expense.

There would be major regulatory hurdles for the deal, with concerns on both a retail and wholesale level, and particularly the future of the altnets, with any deal likely having to protect this.

“Google dominates search, Meta is a scale player in display (with some competition from YouTube and TikTok) and Amazon is the only player in its walled garden,” she told The Media Leader.

Enders noted that publishers have been increasingly crowded out of the digital market, with many retreating behind their own walled gardens via paywalls. “Algorithm changes by platforms are of course not helpful to traffic to publisher sites,” she said.

Meanwhile, Enders senior media analyst Jamie MacEwan added that the macroeconomic downturn has biased buyers towards advertising channels that can prove a return on spend.

Douglas McCabe, chief executive of Enders Analysis, a research service covering the media, entertainment and telecoms industries, said a large part of the problem had been that digital ad revenues have been soaked up by US giants such as Google, Meta and Amazon.

“Advertising is very much flowing to search [engines] but also retail,” he said. “All of that is just bad news if what you’re running is a newspaper business or a magazine business, because it’s taking away advertising spend.” He added that news websites were receiving lesser audiences from search engines and from social media sites such as Facebook. “That, ultimately, also has an affect on the amount of advertising being generated,” said McCabe. “So it’s a perfect storm of problems all happening at once.”

“TalkTV should be an embarrassment as it makes roughly the same losses as Sky News but without the same exceptional reach, awards or impact,” said Claire Enders, media analyst. 

Morgan’s show still generally has the smallest audience in its time slot of the four other main news channels in the UK — which also comprise Sky News, BBC News and GB News — according to Douglas McCabe at Enders Analysis.

“The problem from a business perspective is Piers’s show has had no ‘halo effect’ on the channel. For the rest of the schedule, on average Talk TV is a long way behind the other news channels.”

A recent report by Enders Analysis, a subscription research service specialising in media, indicated that the Independent/Saudi deal could give Sheikh Mansour a way out of the impasse in which he now finds himself.

With the regulators still investigating and amid vociferous protests against the sale, Enders warns that the “saga of the ownership of The Telegraph … could roll on and on through 2025”. One option, it suggests, is for RedBird IMI, the investment vehicle set up by Sheikh Mansour and its chief executive Jeff Zucker, to “broaden the investor base and thus address the threat of editorial interference more directly”.

Condé Nast’s stable of print magazines still exists — albeit without the strong national editions — “and that’s an achievement in itself when so many other print titles have folded,” said Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis. InStyle and Marie Claire no longer have print editions and the once-mighty Sports Illustrated is on the brink of collapse.