David Chance, the former deputy chief executive of BSkyB, has been brought in by Granada to undertake a review of ITV Digital, its pay television joint venture with Carlton.
The move will be seen as further evidence that Carlton and Granada have decided that a restructuring of the heavily loss-making ITV Digital is required.
Mr Chance, a Granada non-executive director and one of the most highly regarded figures in the pay TV market, will begin by looking at ITV Digital's sports channel and its dispute over charges proposed by bitter rival Sky for carrying ITV channels over its satellite network.
However, Granada's chief executive, Charles Allen, has given him the wider task of looking at all options for the future of ITV Digital, including possible deals with BT, the BBC and Sky.
ITV Digital, which has 1.2 million subscribers, will have cost Carlton and Granada £1.1bn if it follows its business plan and breaks even by 2004. However, while its owners insist the venture remains on target, advertising has seen its worst slump for a decade, decimating revenues at Granada and Carlton. Analysts have questioned whether they can still afford to persevere with ITV Digital.
Furthermore, with the rapid evolution of the market, with new players such as BT due to move into broadcasting, and Bertelsmann's stated objective of expanding in UK television, a re-examination of ITV Digital was considered appropriate. As a last-ditch option, closure of the venture remains a possibility.
Mr Chance, who has already begun work on the project, is expected to report back to Granada in the New Year. "Chance is very well connected and astute," said one ITV source. "He is having a fresh look at ITV Digital, independent of the parties involved."