Bauer and H Bauer unite to pitch for BBC Magazines
Bauer Media and H Bauer have entered into an unprecedented alliance to pitch for BBC Worldwide's commercial magazine business, Media Week can reveal.
Bauer and H Bauer unite to pitch for BBC Magazines
Sources involved in the deal have confirmed the two publishers, which operate as separate sibling companies with distinct portfolios, have entered into joint talks with the Radio Times and Top Gear owner.
Both companies are owned by Bauer Publishing Group in Germany, formerly known as H Bauer Verlag KG.
The two companies are believed to be leaving themselves open to a number of possible ramifications in terms of where any titles could sit and the ultimate shape of any deal. Any proposed move must be be sanctioned by Hamburg.
The move comes as the BBC is gearing up to whittle down its shortlist of prospective buyers to just two publishers.
Bauer, the company formed from the acquisition of Emap's consumer titles in 2007, has already been tipped as a strong contender to secure a deal with the BBC, but news of the tie-up with its sister company opens up a raft of new opportunities.
H Bauer publishes 27 titles, including women’s weeklies Bella, Take a Break and That's Life!. It also houses TV listings magazines Total TV Guide and TV Choice, both of which compete directly with the BBC’s Radio Times.
The publisher also has a host of special interest titles, such as the monthly Spirit and Destiny and the monthly food title Eat In, in addition to an array of puzzle magazines, including Arrowwords and Wordsearch.
Bauer Media and H Bauer are led by chief executives Paul Keenan and David Goodchild respectively, both are believed to be involved in ongoing talks with a BBC contingent led by Peter Phippen, managing director of BBC Magazines.
Bauer Media publishes more than 60 consumer and specialist titles including Grazia, FHM, Empire and Q, as well as operating Bauer Radio.
The corporation is believed to be hoping to have a preferred option ready to put to the BBC Trust by the end of its financial year on 5 April.
Phippen would not comment on the anticipated new alliance, but did admit he was hoping to reach a shortlist of two soon. He also said he was "hoping to be able to announce any deal by the summer".
BBC Worldwide is hopeful that any partnership will not result in its magazines, which also includes Gardener's World, Olive and BBC Good Food, being sold off outright, but rather repositioned under special licensing or short-term contract agreements.
The transaction itself could still take months to be finalised and will need to be approved by the BBC Trust, which is currently in transition itself with the impending exit of chairman Sir Michael Lyons.
If Lord Patten does become the next chairman of the BBC Trust, as widely tipped on Friday (18 February), he will lead a process that will judge any proposal against four criteria: whether it fits with the BBC's public purposes; whether it is commercially efficient (ie profitable); whether it avoids jeopardising the reputation of the BBC or the value of the BBC brand; and whether it complies with the BBC's fair trading guidelines.
UK regulator the OFT could also potentially choose to investigate how a new partnership affects the industry, considering in particular if the deal provides a "substantial lessening of competition" in the magazine market.
In such circumstances, having the option of partnering with either, or any combination of, Bauer or H Bauer's two distinct portfolios could provide a useful flexibility when attempting to ease any competition concerns.
Earlier this month, Media Week revealed Hearst walked away from the BBC deal following its move to part with €651m for the acquisition of Lagardère’s SCA international press and magazine business.
Last week, BBC Magazines demonstrated yet again how strong its portfolio of titles are, posting strong ABC performances for the six months to 31 December 2010.
Circulations across the portfolio were up 5.5% period on period and it was the only leading top five consumer magazine publisher in the country to achieve year-on-year growth, albeit 0.5%.
Read more background to any potential partnership by Arif Durrani here - BBC Magazines: even when they're winning, they lose
This article was first published on mediaweek.co.uk
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