Daytime line-ups need fresh ideas

The ITC’s criticisms of daytime programmes is spurring a renewed onslaught by advertisers, wearied by declining standards on TV.

Daytime TV has long been a bugbear for advertisers of household products and other fast-moving consumer goods. The Independent Television Commission (ITC), last week (MW, April 18 2002) joined in the barrage of criticism levelled at the daytime schedules of the commercial terrestrial channels.

The ITC, concerned about falling audiences for daytime TV, said in its 2001 annual report: “More imagination is needed to re-invigorate the programming and to give it greater diversity.”

Share of total viewing for adults across daytime hours of 9am to 4pm for Channel 4, Channel 5 and ITV1 has declined from 41 per cent in 2000 to 38 per cent for 2001, and for the first three months of 2002 it has fallen even further to 36 per cent, according to an analysis of BARB data by Carat. However, across the market as a whole, including BBC1 and 2 and satellite channels, viewing of that daytime strand has remained static.

Channel 5, which has seen its share fluctuate from five per cent in 2000 to four per cent in 2001 and then back to seven per cent for the first three months of 2002, and satellite channels, which have experienced a rise in share from 18 per cent to 22 per cent, and then 27 per cent across the same period, are the only ones to have experienced growth. ITV1’s share remained static for 2000 and 2001 at 24 per cent, before falling to 20 per cent for the first three months of 2002. Channel 4’s dropped from 11 per cent in 2000 to nine per cent for the remainder of the period. BBC1 has also seen its share fall, from 30 per cent in 2000 to 29 per cent in 2001, and then 27 per cent for the first three months of 2002.

Backing the ITC’s comments, Procter & Gamble’s associate media director Bernard Balderston claims that the channels are making insufficient investment in daytime programming and are instead concentrating on developing peaktime. “A lot of people are available to watch daytime TV because of changing working patterns,” he adds.

Balderston is particularly concerned about ITV1 and the fact that two recent innovations in daytime scheduling, the return of Crossroads and the launch of Night and Day, haven’t worked.

Chris Hayward, head of TV at Zenith Media, accepts that ITV1 has tried to experiment with the schedule, with little success so far. He adds: “I don’t think that there’s a quick-fix solution and I also don’t think that being exciting and innovative is necessarily going to solve the problem.”

The ITC also claims that ITV1’s morning schedule suffered when This Morning’s average audience fell from 1.4 million in 2000 to 1.2 million last year, following the defection of presenters Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan to Channel 4 after a reported fall-out with ITV’s then daytime controller, Maureen Duffy.

But Bob Wootton, director of media and advertising affairs for the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, claims that Richard and Judy – who, according to the ITC, “failed to live up to expectations” on Channel 4 – were not as great a loss as Home and Away, now being used by Channel 5 to pull viewers into an hour of soap.

ITV1’s new daytime controller, Liam Hamilton, is more than aware of the criticisms of daytime TV and has embarked on a number of face-to-face meetings with key advertisers in a bid to develop an open dialogue and ideas for advertiser-funded programming. In June, he is expected to unveil a new schedule for the autumn. He claims that changes already made to morning shows Trisha and This Morning are attracting more viewers to the channel, helping it to beat BBC1 regularly in the 9.30am to 12.30pm slot.

Hamilton adds: “There’s more attention needed in the afternoon where, in fact, the viewing opportunities are actually higher.”

He hopes to revitalise the schedule with new programmes, such as nostalgia quiz show Never Had it So Good and recent acquisition Hollywood Star Treatment, rather than relying on daytime stalwarts.

But time is running out for ITV1 and Balderston warns that brand advertisers will pile into peak to achieve the relevant ratings.

One of those advertisers that has already shifted daytime spend is Kimberly-Clark. European media director Oliver Cleaver says: “We’ve moved money out of ITV1 daytime over the past couple of years and into peaktime. We’ve changed the structure of our investment in pursuit of where audiences are more engaged and perceptive.”

Carat broadcast director Steve Hobbs says research conducted by the agency shows that, “ITV1 peak is by far and away the highest performing sector in terms of recall”, and ITV1 daytime is 30 per cent lower.

Attention levels are also of concern to Channel 5, which has conducted qualitative research into daytime audiences and found that they want more positive, educative and interactive programming as opposed to the sit-back self-analytical shows that tend to dominate daytime in the morning.

It claims that its commitment to the strand is reflected by the recent appointment of its first controller of daytime, arts and religion, Kim Peat, who has already scheduled repeats of lifestyle shows House Doctor, Hot Property and House Busters to run before the topical discussion show The Wright Stuff at 10am, and commissioned a quiz show.

Channel 4 is also making changes, replacing The Big Breakfast, identified by the ITC as waning in popularity, with Rise. But a spokesman for the channel says the ITC failed to recognise that Richard & Judy was an “alternative” show for the 5pm slot and that audiences of 1.5 million upwards were in line with expectations for that time.

But with daytime audiences already moving to satellite channels, the terrestrial channels will have to fight tooth and nail to ensure advertising revenue doesn’t follow.

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