Andrew Bowden looks at the short history of ITV's first consolidator.
- 25 Mar 1969
- Trident Television formed to sell adverts for Tyne Tees and Yorkshire.
- 1 Jan 1974
- Yorkshire and Tyne Tees become owned by Trident Television.
- IBA confirm that Trident will have to sell its stake in one of it's two franchises.
- Trident reduces its stakes in both Yorkshire and Tyne Tees, and buys casinos instead.
When people now think of consolidation in ITV, they'll probably think of Granada buying LWT or Carlton snapping up Central in the 1990s, however the first two proper examples both involved Yorkshire and it's North Eastern rival, Tyne Tees.
Whilst the pairing of the two companies in the early 1990s ultimately led to the whole of ITV in England and Wales being run by one company, their combination in the 1970s didn't have the same repercussions.
The reason for the coming together of Tyne Tees and Yorkshire was partly down to transmitters. The shape of each company's transmission area was based on the coverage areas of the VHF transmitters - in Tyne Tees's case, the Burnhope transmitter.
Unfortunately the new UHF transmitters didn't match the same transmission area as the VHF ones. The intended allocation of Bilsdale transmitter in North Yorkshire to Yorkshire Television, would have seen the Tyne Tees area reduced, to Yorkshire's benefit. That said, although Yorkshire gained Bilsdale, it had lost out on part of it's southern region to Anglia. It was a rather messy state of affairs, and Tyne Tees's finances were suffering.
Forming the Prongs
To get round the problem, a union of companies and a transmitter swap was proposed - Tyne Tees and Yorkshire would merge, Bilsdale transmitter would be given to Tyne Tees and Anglia's Belmont transmitter would go to Yorkshire.
A precedent for the merger had been set some years before when in 1963 Welsh broadcaster WWN collapsed, leading to an arranged marriage with it's South Wales and West rival TWW - in that case the two separate franchise areas were never advertised separately again.
No doubt with that in mind, the Independent Television Authority agreed to the merger, on the condition that the two companies retained their individuality as programme providers.
The vehicle for this combination was Trident Television, a joint venture formed in 1969 to sell airtime for both companies. On 1 January 1974, in a reverse-takeover, it took over its parent companies. For the first time, one company owned two distinct and separate ITV franchises although the new company was dominated by the larger, stronger Yorkshire whose shareholders owned 71.5% of the new company.
One of the mysteries surrounding Trident Television is the involvement of Anglia Television. As anyone familiar with tridents will know, there are generally three prongs, and it is believed by some that the original plan was to merge Tyne Tees, Yorkshire and Anglia together with each company being one prong.
However evidence from the family of JP Graham, one of the driving forces behind Tyne Tees and Trident, says that this is not true and that that the third prong was the companies other business interests. Those other business interests included Windsor Safari Park, a scenery construction company called Watts and Corry, and a film distribution company called Trident Films.
Whatever the situation was, Anglia was never part of Trident, although was involved with a joint venture called Trident Anglia - formed to sell programming on the international market.
Removing the Prongs
The combination of Yorkshire and Tyne Tees as well as the transmitter swaps, led to reduced costs, and put Tyne Tees on a healthier footing.
On screen at least the two companies remained distinct and separate although proposals were made in 1974 and 1976 to rename the companies 'Trident Yorkshire' and 'Trident Tyne-Tees' although both were rejected.
The improved healthiness of the business meant that the case for retaining Trident diminished, and the Independent Broadcasting Authority imposed the condition that for the 1980 franchise round a company could only own one franchise, although it could earn up to 30% of another.
After negotiation with the IBA, Trident decided to get out of television, and when the new licenses started in January 1982, sold all but 30% of Yorkshire, and 25% of Tyne Tees.
Trident also sold much of it's over TV interests, including it's stake in a certain Satellite Television Limited, which was launched in 1982 as a pan-European satellite broadcaster.
Trident sold out in 1982 not long after launch, and by 1984 the remaining shareholders had sold the station to Rupert Murdoch for just £1, with the channel being re-branded as Sky Channel. It wouldn't be for nearly a decade until that small television channel morphed into the pay-TV operation we know today.
Playing with the Bunnies
Trident's love of television gone, it moved into the leisure industry buying Playboy's UK non-publishing businesses, consisting of five casinos in London, Manchester and Portsmouth, a half share in two more in Salford and the Wirral, and 81 betting shops in London. All but two of the London casinos were quickly sold. Two smaller casinos in London were later added to the portfolio in the autumn of 1982.
In 1983 it was announced that Trident would sell Windsor Safari Park and it's remaining non-casino business, and rename itself Trident Casinos. Shortly after it merged its operations with rival operator, Pleasurama. In a very short time, Trident had gone from being a big player in ITV, to extinction.