ITV takes back CITV airtime sales after GMTV competition blunders

C%20ITVITV has wrenched control of airtime sales for its children’s channel CITV from the troubled breakfast broadcaster GMTV, a month after it was fined a record 2m by media regulator Ofcom for misconduct in viewer competitions run between 2003 and 2007.

ITV Customer Services, the ITV sales operation, will begin selling advertising airtime for CITV from January – less than two years after the station launched.

GMTV is 75% owned by ITV, but operates independently. It is not known for certain whether the scandal surrounding GMTV is the reason behind taking the sales back in-house, although sources suggest commercial bosses believe they can do a better job. The total children’s TV market is worth about 100m.

GMTV was handed the CITV airtime sales business in August 2005, ahead of the channel’s launch on Freeview in March last year, on the grounds that they under-stood the market better than ITV.

It is now the second-highest rating commercial children’s channel and reaches 2.1 million children a month.

The u-turn follows an “upfront” presentation to advertisers and agencies, headed by executive chairman Michael Grade, ahead of trading for 2008.

Grade and senior ITV staff sold an “upbeat” story about the broadcaster, saying that its digital portfolio of channels outperformed the market and that flagship terrestrial channel ITV was losing share more slowly than its rivals.

It dropped 2.4% year on year, while Channel 4’s audience has dipped 11.3%, Five is down by 9.1%, BBC1 by 4.2% and BBC2 by 3.2%.

Grade said: “We have had a much better year than most people dared to predict, including myself.”

He also pledged a less “adversarial” relationship with advertisers, as revealed on marketingweek.co.uk.

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