No, it’s not the name of a new primetime reality TV show hosted by Ant ‘n’ Dec. It’s the state of Britain’s biggest commercial broadcaster.
Advertising revenues (and many would argue the quality of programming) have been sliding downwards for at least a decade and the financial state of the company is a little risky.
Their solution has been to “diversify”, developing more channels. These include the originally-named ITV2, 3 and 4, ITV Play, CITV and (until recently) the ITV News Channel. They also own Men&Motors – which is essentially the same thing as ITV4.
Entering into the “multichannel world” is supposed to mitigate against the sliding audience figures on the main channel. But it’s not going to work, and here’s why.
Let’s compare ITV with Channel 4 (a comparison that’s been made a lot recently by ITV themselves). Channel 4 also have a multichannel strategy, encompassing E4, More4, Film4 and the truly brilliant (!) Quiz Call.
The key to those channels’ success is that the digital channels branch out from an existing theme on Channel 4. So you can easily spot the roots of each digital channel on Channel 4 (T4/Big Brother = E4; Dispatches/Channel 4 News = More4; Films = Film4; Deal or No Deal/Countdown = Quiz Call).
The reason it works (and the reason their digital channels do well) is that they can cross-promote the digital channels after a very similar programme has broadcast on Channel 4.
The reason ITV’s buggered is that it can’t.
Take CITV for instance. You might not have noticed, but since we were kids, the amount of kids’ TV on ITV1 has gone through the floor. There’s typically about 30-60mins a day now, and they’re proposing to scrap it entirely. So there’s no way of cross-promoting the CITV channel to kids. Because they won’t be watching.
Similarly, ITV4 shows intelligent drama (apparently), much of it American. But where is that sort of programming on ITV1? They can’t cross-promote it after Neighbours From Hell XXVI because the people watching that won’t give a toss about the sort of shows ITV4 does.
The saddest thing about ITV is its news, or lack thereof. Their lunchtime bulletin is being cut in half, and their late bulletin seems to get later by the week. The ITV News Channel was scrapped just as it was becoming watchable, meaning at the end of the news bulletin on ITV1 the only thing they can promote is either Corrie (which they seem to do often!) or the fairly pisspoor ITV News website.
The company’s in a mess because it’s trying to be all things to all people, but is managing to be increasingly little to everyone. The potential is there on channels like ITV3 and ITV4, but those channels won’t thrive unless audiences think there’s anything with “ITV” at the front of it that’s worth watching.
ITV might be right in saying that Channel 4 can be a bit tacky (Charlotte Church? Her own show? Brilliant idea!), but they should be more worried about their own future.