ITV aims for viewers with spending power

ITV is going up-market to seek out a younger and wealthier audience, Marcus Plantin, its central scheduler, said yesterday, writes Michael Leapman.

Introducing ITV's autumn schedule, Mr Plantin countered suggestions made during the row over rescheduling News at Ten that the channel was devoting itself exclusively to winning large numbers of viewers. 'We're paying more attention to the young and up-market audience,' he said. 'A lot of the new drama is skewed towards them.'

Mr Plantin pointed out that for the first time for several years there was no detective series in the drama schedule - the nearest thing being Cracker, in which Robbie Coltrane plays a 'dangerous but brilliant' clinical psychologist. He said factual programmes would continue to play a large role. World in Action keeps its place at 8.30pm on Mondays and The Big Story, a new current affairs series from Carlton, will be shown at 7.30pm on Thursdays.

The autumn schedule - the first for which Mr Plantin is wholly responsible since he took the new post of network scheduler - is not dramatically different from the old. But this year ITV has won 41 per cent of the television audience, as against 32 per cent for BBC1, so there is no need for radical change.

Mr Plantin said that he was being sparing in commissioning new comedy. 'Light entertainment is going through a gear shift and somehow we're going to have to find a way of doing it differently,' he said.

Discussing ITV's continuing wish to move News at Ten to an earlier time, Mr Plantin said it was wrong to assume that he wanted to use the 10pm slot solely for adult drama. 'I might put some factual programmes there,' he said.

Sir George Russell, chairman of the Independent Television Commission, has vetoed any move of the news for the time being. He is meeting the heads of the 15 ITV companies today to discuss the matter.

ITV's move is in response to the wish of advertisers to reach people with more spending power. It comes at a time when the BBC is trying to find ways of reaching the mass market. With BSkyB, the satellite service, claiming this week that it was no longer 'council-estate television', there is now a danger that the lowest income groups, the heaviest watchers of television, may find less and less to appeal to them.