Among the minnows of the media sector you find all sorts. There are small publishers, small PR companies and advertising agencies, tiny market research bureaux, all with minuscule market shares (though some with interesting niches). And then there's Independent Media Distribution – a company with just £16m market capitalisation but which dominates its sector in the UK.

 IMD provides the logistics behind TV and radio advertising. TV commercials used to get made in a studio somewhere, and when they were ready, you rang for a motorcycle courier to take them to ITV.

 Now, two big changes have happened. First of all, the world has gone digital. Your TV ad is now a string of bytes instead of a spool of tape. Secondly – and most importantly for IMD – we've entered a multichannel universe. Instead of getting your master videotape to ITV, you're probably going to be shooting it off to ITV, Channel 4, Sky, and a selection of other channels to suit your budget and demographic. So your costs just went up from one courier to five or six – at least.

 Zap the pretty pixels off to IMD, on the other hand, and it will handle the rest for you. Saving the budget on couriers – and also saving the hassle. No wonder IMD now handles over half the total TV ads in the UK, according to figures from Sky and Channel 4 [1] .

 Through its CARIA data exchange system it also provides campaign management services; CARIA handles 85% of TV ads by value. The system is now integrated with media owners' and agencies' systems – ensuring data is clean, but also tying the users firmly into the network and creating an exit barrier. CARIA was developed by Optimad, which IMD acquired in 2006, and now accounts for 30% of group sales [2] .

 In fact IMD started off in the radio business, but took a brave decision in 2003 to branch out into television. That cost it £5m, a lot for a minnow, but it has paid off [3] . Since radio revenues have started to tail off as the sector in the UK has shrunk, that decision looks even better than it did at the time.

 It's not all been plain sailing. For instance in February this year the…

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