ITV chief defends reality shows, despite ratings flops

By Ciar Byrne,Media Correspondent
Wednesday 10 July 2013 01:33

The woman responsible for the ITV reality shows Celebrity Love Island ­ panned by the critics ­ and Celebrity Wrestling ­ dropped after poor ratings ­ has insisted the channel is not in crisis.

Claudia Rosencrantz, ITV's head of entertainment, said the channel would continue to make reality television shows such as The X Factor, starring Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne, despite a series of critical and ratings flops.

She admitted she was disappointed that Celebrity Wrestling had been dropped from the Saturday night line-up following poor ratings and that critics had given Celebrity Love Island a drubbing.

The entertainment chief who commissioned both shows denied, however, that ITV was suffering a crisis in its 50th anniversary year.

Ms Rosencrantz said: "There's no crisis. The pack has decided that it's our turn, and that's fine. There have always been shows that have worked and shows that haven't worked. The shows I commission are very high-profile shows and they take place in a very public arena."

She rejected speculation that, unless the situation improved, both she and the director of programmes, Nigel Pickard, could find their jobs on the line. "I've no idea whether heads are going to roll. My head feels very stable," Ms Rosencrantz said.

Celebrity Wrestling, which featured B-list celebrities including James Hewitt and Annabel Croft taking part in wrestling bouts, was dropped halfway through its run last month after its audience fell to 2.6 million viewers, a 14 per cent share of its Saturday teatime slot. "Of course I was disappointed," said Ms Rosencrantz. "What people don't understand is that the passion and commitment and expertise that goes into making every show is identical.

"I don't commission some things thinking, 'With a wing and a prayer'. Wrestling was a wonderful show. Was it time to bring back wrestling? Obviously, it wasn't. I listen to what our viewers are saying."

She also defended Celebrity Love Island, which has sent single celebrities including George Best's son, Calum, Rebecca Loos and Abi Titmuss to a desert island and watched romance blossom ­ or at least the kind of romance that takes 15 minutes in a lavatory cubicle.

The former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan said the series was "the most absurd and pathetic televisual experience" he had "ever had to endure".

Ms Rosencrantz said that while the critics had initially turned on the show, the tabloid newspapers whose readers are the show's core audience had been won round.

She said: "Yes, it got an absolute kicking. Did it deserve it? No. The joy for me is that it has not only turned around in the ratings, it has turned around in what critics say about it.

"I don't think there's a red-top that's not absolutely behind it. It always takes time."

Ms Rosencrantz has high hopes for a second series of The X Factor in the autumn.

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