ITV halts audience fall

Richard Eyre and his new team at the ITV Network Centre have built audiences after months of criticism over its lacklustre performance.

The gains have been made mainly at the expense of the BBC. ITV’s share of commercial viewing is still down year on year as Channel 5 and cable and satellite continue to grow, although the decline has slowed.

With the unveiling of ITV’s autumn programme line-up yesterday (Tuesday), it emerged that ITV audiences have grown year on year since April and that the network is on target to meet its 38 per cent peaktime share.

Further BARB figures obtained by Marketing Week show the BBC’s share has dropped from 31.4 per cent in January to 28.1 per cent in May, although it picked up during the World Cup.

ITV’s supply of commercial impacts is up, with its impacts supply of ABC1 men also up since April. There was a huge increase in June thanks to the World Cup, when ITV delivered far better audiences across the schedule than expected.

Its share of commercial viewing is still in decline, however. It stands at 55.1 per cent for the first six months of this year, compared with 55.7 per cent for July to December last year and 58.6 per cent from January to June last year.

The challenge for Eyre will be to maintain audience levels into 1999, when he will not be starting from such a low base and when there will be no World Cup to give a short-term boost to audiences. One media buyer argues that changes in the BARB TV universes have also improved the look of the overall picture for ITV.

Andy Pearch, managing director of The Billett Consultancy, says: “It’s extremely positive for the new team.”

The new programme line-up in-cludes Grafters, a series starring Robson Green and Stephen Tompkinson, two thrillers from Lynda La Plante, a new look Bill, and an adaptation of Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie.

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