Unilever has confirmed plans to invest in TV programme development in an attempt to protect programme quality, according to its broadcast consultant MGA Broadcasting.
The company will shortly announce details of an ITV programme, which it has co-funded, and which is scheduled to go on air this autumn.
It is the first initiative from Unilever’s Programme Development Project, details of which were unveiled for the first time this week.
The project entails Unilever striking strategic partnerships with broadcasters – mainly ITV companies – and producers to invest in developing programme pilots, specialist programmes and high-quality drama.
It is the first time Unilever has fully embraced programme production in the UK, says MGA chief executive Malcolm Grant.
The company has got involved in production outside the UK, where it owns the format to gameshow Wheel of Fortune and offers the programme to broadcasters in certain overseas markets in exchange for commercial airtime.
Unilever also experimented in funding a European soap, Riviera, which flopped in the UK because of poor audiences and an early morning slot.
However, the latest initiative reflects growing concern within the company that given the size of many ITV companies’ franchise bids, the level of investment in quality programming could fall, says a Unilever spokesman.
“Like a growing number of advertisers, Unilever now believes it is sensible to get into programming to ensure the quality audiences it wants are available,” Grant adds.