ANALYSIS: Where does the future of MCN lie?

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 3 June 2019

MCN CEO Mark Frain is confident, despite the massive changes of the last 12 month, in the future of the sales house and its role in revitalising the Foxtel business.

The company last year was rocked by the news that Network Ten, now owned by CBS, would be ending its sales house arrangement, effectively bringing an end close to $600 million in annual revenue for MCN.

Following a round of redundancies and the movement of roughly 50% of its workforce over to Ten's new in-house team, MCN rebranded and dedicated itself to the Foxtel brand.

Frain says as part of the "new MCN", efforts have been made to bring the pay-TV brand and its sales house "closer than ever before", as the two work to create a clearer operating model.

"The mission of the MCN business remains the same but the support is probably a little bit different in the sense that it's way deeper than ever before," Frain says.

"I've never seen this level of commitment from Foxtel to develop ad models of the future. So, over the next six to 12 months, we've got more ad products innovation than we've probably ever had and that's because we're working way closer with Foxtel."

Frain says the level of innovation from News Corp's recent $300m funding injection into Foxtel will also bring great advertising opportunities to both clients and customers.

He added this was a major factor in the growth of MCN, with the business now given the opportunity to help create a stronger "creative advertising experience" for the business.

Mark Frain - October 2017 HoriztonalMCN boss Mark Frain

Pointing to Kayo Sports as an example, Frain says MCN had been there "right from the start" developing new ways for brands to interact with customers through the platform.

Despite this, industry sources have raised questions over how long MCN will continue to operate as a separate entity outside of News Corp's own internal sales team.

Some have pointed out there is often a level of crossover in certain roles between the two business, specifically in the programmatic sector.

Frain says this isn't the case and that MCN will remain its own brand, yet would not rule out the possibility of working closer with News when the right opportunities presented themselves.

When questioned on the future of MCN within the wider News Corp business, executive chairman Michael Miller says the business remains "very confident" in the "innovation and momentum" achieved by the sales house.

"We are taking to market ground breaking opportunities to our partners in sponsorships and innovations - like the six second ads - and we are being rewarded with improving share in a very tough market," Miller told AdNews.

"Our teams working together are providing clients with single response campaign solutions and executions when it makes sense to the client."

The agency opinion

AdNews also spoke to agency leaders to get their opinion on whether the integration of MCN into the News Corp sales team would prove to be a wiser strategy for both businesses.

IPG Mediabrands' Magna managing director Victor Corones says he would "fully support a centralisation of MCN's sales team", adding that its future success will rely on agencies having a "strong, single point of contact" within News Corp.

"The simplicity of a single point of contact would ensure everyone across an agency floor knows who they can contact; something that has been increasingly problematic as people changed roles and responsibilities across Newscorp’s vast media assets and advertising solutions," Corones says.

"Overall, consolidation would offer advertisers a singular view of consumers across Newscorp’s vast assets, at scale; a key strategic development if you wish to compete with some of the global digital players."

victor coronesVictor Corones

BCM agency partner Phil McDonald agrees, stating that with "Foxtel under increasing pressure" from the growing streaming service category it would make sense for News Corp to bring MCN into its main sales team.

He says it’s "no secret" they are looking more and more to go direct to clients by combining their media platforms via their own digital and content agencies.

"Of course the success of all of this will be driven by the comfort levels that clients have to put all their eggs in one basket and default to what is effectively multi-channel, advertorial, campaign deployment," McDonald says.

"Surely it is still better to have the brand front and centre and have the freedom to be selective about where you reach an audience, rather than a blanket ‘media group’ approach for ease’."

Y&R group managing director, Phil McDonald.Phil McDonald

Cummins&Partners head of media Paul Murphy says while he is happy with the current MCN offering, he believes having MCN's products in the News Corp sales team would be a "great way to extend an already fantastic offering".

"People in the strategic and direct teams should be rubbing their hands in glee as it adds some great products into their arsenal with limited cross over," Murphy says.

"Imagine the integration team waking one morning with additional access to national TV properties, including sport. Clients and agencies are always open to greater efficiency and increased reach for quality products."

Paul MurphyPaul Murphy

Hyland founder Virginia Hyland says having a single media partner team which is unpinned by various specialists means agencies are more likely to direct a larger share of a media budget to that business.

She says in this "modern era of selling inventory", media partners can optimise their agency and client relationships by providing compelling cross media integrated offerings, something News could enhance by having MCN as part of its sales division.

Virginia HylandVirginia Hyland

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