Trinity Mirror has decided to hand back four of its regional franchises to print and distribute free daily newspaper Metro because of questions over profitability.
Metro is published by Daily Mail and General Trust, but outside London it publishes its regional editions mainly via a franchise agreement with Trinity Mirror.
DMGT provides the vast majority of the editorial content while Trinity Mirror handles print, distribution and some ad sales.
Press Gazette understands that no Trinity Mirror staff will lose their jobs as a result of the move.
The Metro franchises being handed back to DMGT (with latest distribution numbers) are:
- Scotland: 122,455
- Cardiff: 26,153
- Bristol: 29,847
- East Midlands (Nottingham): 40,227.
Press Gazette understands that all four franchises are either unprofitable or heading into the red for Trinity Mirror.
However, a Metro source told Press Gazette the titles will make “an instant and significant” contribution to the title’s bottom line. And Metro executives appear confident they can run all the Metro local editions profitably.
The move comes against a backdrop of severe pressure on print advertising over the last year with many publishers reporting year on year double digit percentage declines.
The exact details of the franchise arrangements are not known, but Trinity Mirror will pay DMGT a fee for licensing the Metro brand and for supply of editorial content and there may also be a revenue split.
Trinity Mirror is retaining four other Metro franchises:
- Manchester: 105,252
- Liverpool: 33,890
- Birmingham: 90,399
- Newcastle: 55,476.
Metro’s main London edition, which has a circulation of 762,959, is distributed by DMGT.
There is also a Leeds edition (79,355) printed and distributed by Johnston Press.
Metro appeared to signal a vote of confidence in all its editions this morning when it said it would be increasing national print distribution by 10 per cent to nearly 1.5m (from 1.35m).
Most of the 150,000 extra copies will go to London, increasing daily distribution in the UK capital to 900,000. This will be achieved partly through extra distribution on busses.
Metro editor Ted Young said: “Our loyal readers are actively picking Metro up every weekday morning and this is clearly demonstrated by the extremely low return rate we see on our London edition at only 1.25 per cent. We know the appetite is definitely there for these extra copies.”
Metro said it was “delighted” to be taking over the franchises in Scotland, Nottingham, Bristol and Cardiff from 1 January 2017.