UK media groups rush to fill News of the World void

Fri Jul 15, 2011 9:05am EDT

* Daily Mail trialing new Sunday tabloid - source

* News Int'l may be looking at 'Sun on Sunday'

* Daily Mail Trust shares rise 1.7 percent

LONDON, July 15 (Reuters) - Britain's media groups are rushing to fill the void created by the closure of the best-selling News of the World, the News International Sunday tabloid that shut last week following allegations of phone hacking.

Associated Newspapers, the national titles division of the Daily Mail & General Trust (DMGOa.L), is doing an internal dummy run on a mass-market Sunday tabloid this weekend and will launch next weekend if it is a success, a source close to the situation told Reuters.

The Daily Mail group declined to comment.

Names under consideration for the new title are The Sunday and The Sunday Lite, the source said, adding that ex-Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie had been mooted as a columnist.

"This should be seen as a bold, opportunistic response to the demise of the News of the World," said Panmure Gordon analyst Alex DeGroote said on Friday.

The Daily Mail already has printing and distribution covered, so launch costs would likely be modest, he said.

The Internet domain name thesunday.co.uk was registered on July 7 by a party called Colin Wilson Engineering. Sundaylite.co.uk, which was originally registered in 2007, was renewed on July 8 by an individual named Simon Dooner, according to the Whois domain names database.

Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch's News International - the UK arm of News Corp - has taken control of internet domain names thesunonsunday.co.uk and sunonsunday.co.uk, fuelling speculation that it aims to launch a 'Sun on Sunday' version of its daily tabloid, The Sun .

The name 'Sunday Sun' is already in use by a regional newspaper in northern England.

Daily Mail already publishes the Mail on Sunday for the mid-market, which it dominates. Its circulation was 1.9 million in May, the latest month for which figures are available.

The News of the World was Britain's most popular Sunday newspaper, with a circulation of about 2.7 million, until it was shut down after 168 years to try to contain an escalating phone hacking scandal.

Its previous editor, Rebekah Brooks, became the most high-profile name to lose her job over the scandal when she resigned as News International chief executive on Friday.

Britain's other mass-market national tabloids are the Sunday Mirror, The People (both owned by Trinity Mirror ), the Sunday Sport, recently bought out of administration by its founder, and the Sunday Express, owned by media baron Richard Desmond.

Earlier on Friday, Euromoney , the financial information unit of the Daily Mail group, said its overall trading performance was in line, with its niche events business driving revenue growth.

Daily Mail shares were up 1.7 percent to 429 pence at 1219 GMT, valuing the group at around 1.6 billion pounds ($2.6 billion).

($1 = 0.620 British Pounds) (Reporting by Georgina Prodhan and Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Erica Billingham)