The media business is in a time of great flux. Legacy publishers are desperately trying to cultivate new revenue streams to counteract the falling value of and demand for print advertising. Broadcasters face new competition from online services like Netflix. And tech giants, most notably Google and Facebook, are hoovering up a massive proportion of advertising spend.
There are challenges but there are also opportunities. Below you’ll find our list of Britain’s most reputable media firms – derived from our Britain’s Most Admired Companies list published last week. You won’t be surprised to see a lack of newspaper publishers, who have been hit the hardest by the collapse in print - and most of them are privately held and so excluded from the ranking anyway. Those who have made it to the top five are doing a solid job of adapting to the digital world – and one of them has always been all about online.
1. RELX Group
It might be a household name like the others on this list but RELX Group is proof that businesses that do boring but important tasks well can enjoy immense success. Formerly known as Reed Elsevier, RELX makes big bucks from its professional and B2B information services. Its portfolio includes The Lancet, New Scientist and the legal research firm LexisNexis. The company has a pretty astonishing market cap (for a publisher, at least) of £26.6bn – blowing a raspberry to Forbes magazine, which in 1995 predicted it would be ‘the internet’s first victim’.
The property market has slowed a little of late but it’s still in fine form compared to many sectors. That’s a boon for Rightmove, the go-to website for house hunters. Despite competition from nimbler rival Zoopla (and more recently the estate agent-led OnTheMarket.com), the company’s profits, revenues and share price have continued to soar.
The broadcaster and telecoms provider formerly known as BSkyB is growing. As well as buying out its Italian and German sister companies Sky has been investing heavily in digital. Its new(ish) SkyQ service, which makes it easier to switch from watching something on TV to your tablet or phone, launched late last year and its online monthly subscription service Now TV has been a big hit. Sky retains the lions’ share of rights to broadcast Premier League football games despite a fierce battle with rival BT.
Read more: Britain's Most Admired Companies 2016
Sir Martin Sorrell’s massive marketing umbrella company has its fingers in many pies – from traditional ad agencies like J. Walter Thompson and Grey to media agencies like Mindshare and several market research data firms. It’s a complicated portfolio to managed but despite market volatility it seems to be doing a good job of it – its shares hit a record high back in October.
Low-brow ITV might not be an obvious candidate for this list, but the broadcaster’s business is booming. External revenues have soared by 58% since 2009 and its adjusted profits before tax are up 681% in the same period. The broadcaster is braced for a decline in ad revenues following Britain’s decision to leave the EU but its vertically integrated model (it makes many of its own shows rather than commissioning them from production companies) should offset that somewhat.