LONDON - News International is considering launching a morning version of its free afternoon title, thelondonpaper, should it wrest the lucrative contract to distribute newspapers during the morning on the London Underground from rival Associated Newspapers.
NI executives are considering three proposals to win the contract - for which a tender was published late last month - which the group's chief operations officer Clive Milner said it is "very interested in".
It is thought that NI's favoured option would be to publish morning and afternoon versions of thelondonpaper. Other options include switching thelondonpaper to a morning-only title or launching an entirely new title. However, sources believe these two options to be least likely.
On 22 May, Transport for London issued a tender inviting bidders for a new contract to distribute free newspapers across 250 tube stations and 20 bus stations in London for seven-and-a-half years from next March.
The current contract, held by Associated for its Metro title, after it outbid NI, ends next March.
Sources believe that News International will feed editorial content into the new morning paper, which could distribute up to 300,000 copies a day, from its other print brands The Times and The Sun.
Alan Brydon, head of press at MPG, said: "Since News International launched thelondonpaper it has been willing to sustain losses so it can get the morning contract with thelondonpaper brand.
"Getting the contract will help it wipe out the paper's losses."
The contract, for which Associated is thought to pay between £1m and £1.5m a year, has helped Metro, which will also bid for the contract, become profitable. Associated does not disclose Metro's financial figures.
The Metro will be hand-distributed outside stations should it lose the contract, but managing director Steve Auckland believes its status as the incumbent could play in its favour.
Auckland said: "It has got to be in our favour, as they know that we know what we are doing."
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