Ian Burrell: As a new advertising dawn breaks, ITV stands ready

Click to follow
The Independent Online

How ITV must be grateful for that blunder that led to Peter Fincham being fired from BBC1 for an off-air clip that misrepresented the Queen and gave Britain's biggest commercial broadcaster the chance to hire one of the television industry's creative powerhouses.

Since joining ITV as director of television in 2008, Fincham has revitalised the schedule and made the flagship ITV1 channel the home of event programming. Most notably, Fincham and Simon Cowell's Syco production company has succeeded in raising yet further the profile of The X Factor, which, despite being in its seventh series, continues to grow its appeal. A 30-second advertising spot during next month's final is expected to cost £250,000.

Fincham has enjoyed further success with Downton Abbey, the type of period drama that many associate with the BBC, enjoying an audience of over 10 million for its final episode. With the corporation under political pressure over its spending, Fincham has raided his former employer for talent.

The poaching of Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley for the relaunched breakfast programme Daybreak has not yet borne fruit, but has nevertheless sent a signal of ITV's renewed confidence. The arrival of Jonathan Ross next year will add to the sense that ITV1 is again a big-hitting channel.

This vitality has helped ITV maximise returning advertising revenues, which are up 11 per cent year on year for the first nine months of 2010 and are expected to continue to grow over the rest of the year. But there are still underlying weaknesses. ITV Studios must find lucrative shows which the broadcaster can "own" and sell overseas, particularly as the eight-year-old I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! format has been dropped in the US and Germany.

Adam Crozier has had an easy ride. The former Royal Mail boss only joined ITV as chief executive in April, just as the share price began to rise on the back of the advertising bounce. Appointed to bring transformational change, he is still at the start of his journey and cannot take much credit for the progress achieved thus far.

"This does not disguise the significant challenges that ITV faces," he noted yesterday.