Mon 21 March 2016, 10:23 am
A burgeoning supply side of smaller companies feed global names with specialist products and services. Kirsty MacAulay reports on the exodus from the West End to west London
Hounslow has many strings to its bow; however, its media-related business cluster is perhaps not one that springs to mind. But it should; west London is at the heart of the ‘TV triangle’, which is where those in the know are basing their media-related businesses. Hounslow boasts the top location in London for media and broadcasting jobs and has seen an 84% growth in the sector since 2009.
BBC Television Centre first brought west London to people’s attention when it opened in Shepherd’s Bush in 1960. Sky TV got people heading further west when it set up home on the Golden Mile in the late 1980s and the trend for media-based companies moving out of Soho to west London has really gained momentum in the last 10 years. Currently, the majority of Hounslow’s media sector is concentrated in the east of the borough, particularly in Turnham Green and Chiswick.
Nick Green, Sky’s property service group director, says: “It’s great there are other like-minded businesses around here attracting like-minded people. Tech City
"This is a good spot, near the airport and the City, with room to grow and access to good-quality people.”
The award-winning Chiswick Park is home to a sizeable chunk of the sector, including companies such as CBS News, Paramount Pictures, Discovery Networks Europe and the Walt Disney Company.
It is easy to see why businesses want to come here. The office buildings are set around an inner garden which features a lake with a waterfall, outdoor events space, seating among the trees and wildflowers as well as a gym, cafes and bars. The sweetener is working alongside other media companies that can share skills, suppliers and offer potential recruitment solutions.
Graham White, CEO of Chiswick Park Enjoy-Work, says: “It has been pretty clear from the outset that Chiswick Park holds broad appeal to broadcast and media businesses. This is something we are very proud of and have always been very vocal about, which has led to even greater levels of clustering at the park.
“The arrival of large media companies such as Disney, Discovery and Paramount at Chiswick Park in the early 2000s sparked more strategic clustering on the park and in the surrounding area. Key benefits over rival locations, such as Shoreditch, include cheaper rents, availability and scale of space, proximity to partner businesses and a skilled talent pool.”
Clustering may seem a modern phenomenon, but geographic groups of related businesses are such a natural occurrence that they have been happening for centuries. Two of the world’s most famous clusters are the gambling businesses that transformed Las Vegas and the film studios that made Hollywood; these were so successful that the geographical names became bywords for the businesses. Studies on clusters have shown they affect competition by driving innovation, increasing productivity and stimulating new business, which, in turn, will see them strengthened.
It may seem obvious – businesses that share the same field of work benefit from a shared location.
Nigel Walley, managing director of media consultancy Decipher, certainly thinks so. Walley set up the TV Triangle networking group (below) to help foster a good networking culture among the profusion of media- related companies now based in west London. He explains: “The cluster just happened, there wasn’t much planning behind it but now we want to encourage networking. It helps to foster a reason to be here.
“We need to build a story about west London. We are in competition with Shoreditch for young, tech- minded people; Shoreditch has built a story. It’s early days but UK TV is at the heart of the TV triangle. A big part of what we’re doing is getting the whole industry to recognise that.”
There are some big names in west London but also a good mix of small and medium-sized companies. When a TV show is made, it will often involve up to three or four different companies, big and small, as pre and post- production and special effects are often outsourced.
Is it surprising that this cluster has built up in west London? Well, location always plays a large part in any decision to move and being close to big players like Sky TV and the BBC will definitely influence the choice of some media businesses.
For international companies, proximity to one of the world’s busiest airports is a major draw.
Being on Heathrow’s doorstep means meetings in New York are only seven or so hours away, and Tokyo is accessible in just over 12 hours – meaning overall travel time will be dramatically reduced for staff working this close to the airport.
Close proximity to central London is another advantage; Hounslow is the perfect spot for those who need to be near both the airport and the West End. The infrastructure improvements that are on the horizon will only increase the attraction of the borough for businesses that need easy access in and out of London.
A longer version of this article features in the new issue of Great West magazine