Steve Morrison - It's all in the timing for the man who found life after ITV

We're all interested in the fate of companies we used to work for. But as the chief executive of All3Media looking back on his troubled former employer, Steve Morrison is more so than most. By Raymond Snoddy

Of all those connected with the sorry saga of ITV, Steve Morrison, chief executive of All3Media, the UK's largest independent producer, has definitely emerged with the biggest smile on his face.

The career of the former Granada Media Group chief executive appeared to be over in 2002 when he became the sacrificial victim to offer the City for the £1.3 billion ITV Digital debacle. If anyone was leaving, it clearly wasn't going to be his fellow-Glaswegian Charles Allen, who was then the chairman of Granada and was soon to be anointed chief executive of ITV.

Instead of disappearing, Morrison cannily linked up with two former Granada colleagues, David Liddiment and Jules Burns, to found All3Media. With the support of the private equity group Bridgepoint, the three bought the television interests of Chrysalis for £45 million and launched the most extraordinary acquisition spree to buy up huge swathes of the independent television production sector.

"At the time I wouldn't have given him a one in 10 chance of pulling this off," says one former colleague. Now with ITV in the greatest turmoil in its history, Morrison sits on top of an empire of 10 independents including Mersey Television (Hollyoaks, Grange Hill), Bentley Productions (Midsomer Murders), Assembly TV (Black Books), Cactus TV (Richard & Judy) and North One (Formula One).

As All3Media was sold in the summer to the multi-billion US venture capitalists Permira, Morrison is also very, very rich. And he is also basking in the glory of a new, acclaimed feature film Mischief Night, which was launched earlier this month by Company Pictures, yet another part of All3Media.

Nowadays nothing would tempt Morrison back to ITV - not that anybody is asking. "I think I have spent long enough in there. I'm really enjoying myself and hope we will build a bigger production business."

He is believed to have earned between £10 million and £15 million from the Permira deal. When Permira sells or goes for a stockmarket float within the next five years there will be more millions for Morrison.

Although best known for his commercial television work in more than 28 years at ITV, Morrison was also executive producer on a number of Granada feature films. Posters of My Left Foot (a double Oscar winner), The Field, and Jack and Sarah fill the wall behind his office desk.

He is once again one of the most influential figures in British television. If Morrison gloats, he does it in private. "It's all water under the bridge. They are all my friends. I want them all to succeed. They can get out of this."

Of course he has a vested interest in ITV's recovery. "I hope the ITV board will appoint a new chief executive of stature [and] advertisers will stay and keep their investment."

The All3Media chief executive believes it is time for ITV to get rid of the CRR (contract rights renewal) scheme which allows advertisers to keep their discounts if they reduce their spending in line with falling audiences. It's a mechanism they have taken advantage of to reduce their spending on ITV by more than £200 million a year.

Television advertising is returning to growth in virtually every developed country - apart from the UK - and Morrison is convinced the CRR is a factor.

"Because the advertiser has a buying plan based on the premium price, which is the ITV price, if that part of the market goes down it tends to have a ripple effect on the other TV channels and maybe on other media."

His three-year plan would involve the abolition, or reform, of the CRR and commitments by ITV to maintain spending on programme schedules and by advertisers to continue to fund the channel properly. Naturally he also wants Channel 4 to do well - All3 Media makes Richard & Judy, Shameless and Hollyoaks for the channel. A good licence fee settlement for the BBC wouldn't go amiss either.

Lion Television, another All3Media company, has won the BBC commission to make a second series of Castaway, this time set on a remote island off the New Zealand coast. It will run on BBC One and BBC Three for nearly three months.

All3 has the ability to do almost anything it chooses in the independent sector. Ron Jones, executive chairman of Tinopolis, owners of independents such as Mentorn, sees All3Media as " an elephant in the living room. It could buy all the independents on the public market. At the corporate end the market is potentially out of everyone's control."

Morrison is dismissive of the notion that a bid for anything is imminent and deflects the question by saying that they always have a look at potential targets, just in case.

Morrison is optimistic about the future of television despite the arrival of potential new rivals for attention and advertising revenue such as YouTube. This he sees as "a very progressive development" and that the professional media should find a way of turning user-generated content into a latter-day version of You've Been Framed.

The company is already involved in new media outlets such as making "mobisodes" of Hollyoaks for mobile phones and broadband. There will be a bigger move into multi-media "when it becomes real" and increasingly involvement in worldwide advertiser-sponsored programming.

"If you add up these areas..." Morrison does not feel the need to add any words. He just ends the sentence with another smile of the sort you don't see in ITV these days.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Publishing

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Guru Careers: Report Writer / Reporting Analyst

£25 - 30k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Report Writer / Reporting Analyst is nee...

Guru Careers: German Speaking Account Manager / Account Executive

£24-30K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A German speaking Account Manager ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own