100 days to save the sinking channel - Media - News - The Independent

100 days to save the sinking channel

Down market, and down in ratings. Is there nothing ITV can do right? Rob Brown considers the state of play in advance of a crucial strategy meeting designed to fight the multi-channel challenges head on.

There will be no soap stars or game show hosts in attendance today when the new strategy for reviving ITV is unveiled at the QE2 Conference Centre in London. Celebrities of all sorts have been kept off the guest list in order to emphasise the serious theme of the presentation - to advertising and marketing executives - Britain's biggest commercial channel means business.

In a bold attempt to restore confidence in ITV - which has been losing audience share to both its terrestrial and cable and satellite rivals - the network's new managing triumvirate will announce that, for the first time, they are prepared to set public targets for peak time audiences. Although the targets will not serve as guarantees to advertisers, they are bound to become the key benchmark against which this trio's performance will be judged.

ITV's share of total audience has dwindled from 44 per cent of peak time in 1994 to under 39 per cent in 1997. Its share of total advertising revenue has similarly slipped from 72 per cent four years ago to 65 per cent last year. With Channel 5 getting into its stride and the advent of digital television set to fragment audiences still further, media analysts believe it will be doing well if it can maintain its annual advertising revenue at pounds 1.68bn this year.

Publicly declared peak time targets is the main new policy to emerge from the "one hundred day" mission statement drawn up by Richard Eyre, the new chief executive of the ITV Network Centre. Mr Eyre, previously group managing director of the Capital Radio group, will be flanked at today's presentation by the director of programmes David Liddiment, who was hired from Granada, and the marketing director John Hardie, who swapped soap powders at Procter & Gamble for soap operas.

Liddiment is expected to wax lyrical about changes to the "architecture" of the ITV schedule. Drama will remain the bedrock of its peak time offerings, but there are plans to lessen the dependence on expensive fiction by developing more popular factual programmes.

Liddiment has hired two of the BBC's top talents to spearhead ITV's push into this programming area. Steve Anderson, former editor of Watchdog, has become the networks controller of news and current affairs whilst Grant Mansfield is the new controller of documentaries and features. He was previously responsible for ratings hits such as The Driving School and Vet School.

The great attraction of such programmes to TV schedulers is that they cost considerably less than top-notch dramas to produce, but they can pull in audiences almost as large if you get them right. They have certainly done the business in recent times for BBC 1.

Advertisers are especially keen to see ITV win back audience share from the corporation's mainstream network, which does not of course carry any commercials.

ITV's audience profile, generally more down-market and older than that of its rivals, is also a problem in the eyes of many advertisers. Media buyers (the hard-nosed number crunchers who purchase slots for commercials) are increasingly obsessed with the 16-to-34 age group and want to purchase air time around programmes which deliver that key demographic.

Channel 4's cult US sitcom Friends can deliver 15 per cent of that category. It charges pounds 40,000 for a national 30 second spot around that programme. In contrast, ITV charges pounds 90,000 for a half-minute commercial in the middle of Coronation Street.

ITV has also struggled to raise a laugh in recent years and would dearly love to develop some successful new comedy strands. But Liddiment knows that it will remain difficult to locate the nation's funny bone.

Sports still looks a safer bet when it comes to attracting another elusive audience - up-market men. ITV has been making some progress in its pursuit of more ABC 1 male viewers by screening sports such as Formula One car racing and international rugby matches. This strategy will step up a gear now that is has poached the BBC's head of sports Brian Barwick.

Because of the time lag in commissioning and then producing major new series, the big changes at ITV won't really start to feed through to the schedules until 1999. But their network will set a peak time target for this year.

The 100-day manifesto is a marketing trick adapted from US presidents, who are often judged on their performance in that opening period. But in many respects ITV remains more like another North American nation, Canada. It too is a loose federation, made up of 15 regional stations which often find it hard to agree on a collective strategy. Scottish Television is fast shaping up as its equivalent of Quebec, pushing for more autonomy or what it calls "affiliate" status.

With a devolved Scottish parliament on the horizon, Scottish has also been exploring the possibility of producing its own national and international news programme for the first time. But it is unlikely to finalise its proposals until it becomes clear what the Network Centre intends to do with News at Ten. There has been strong speculation since 1993 that the flagship news programme will be moved to an earlier time slot to clear the way for more ratings driven dramas and movies.

The issue will not be confronted head-on at today's meeting. The new trio in charge of ITV are obviously not prepared to risk at this stage the wrath of politicians on both sides of the House of Commons, especially not in the QE2 Conference Centre - located just a stone's throw away from the Palace of Westminster.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Director of Programming and Industry Engagement

£40k - £50k depending on experience: Sheffield Doc/Fest: Sheffield Doc/Fest is...

Resourcer / Junior Recruiter

£15-20k (DOE) + Benefits / Bonus: Guru Careers: Joining as a Resourcer / Juni...

Head of Design & UX / UX Architect

£55 - 70k: Guru Careers: Head of Design & UX / UX Architect is needed to join ...

Media and Entertainment Lawyer - City

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - A specialist opportunity with ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week