It seems to me that cash shortages following expensive bids for licences have led to a lack of sufficient investment in programming. As a consequence, audiences fell earlier this year. Some weak excuses concerning the summer weather have been heard but basically the product has not been attractive enough and people have tuned into the ever-increasing competition. Shrinking audiences and growing fragmentation have, therefore, driven up costs significantly.
Among the early actions undertaken by a new incoming marketing team should be serious upgrading in programming. In the medium term this would support ITV’s brand positioning which in my view should be: “Whatever the audience, we can deliver more, faster than anybody else.”
Consistent communications to advertisers underpinning this theme would reaffirm ITV as the cornerstone of any broadcast schedule.
At present, ITV is a “federal” operation when it needs to be a more cohesive brand. Even the visual screen identity is dominated by individual regions and there is no one person carrying the flag as Michael Grade does so well at Channel 4.
To encourage larger audiences, ITV must repackage and sell its products more vigorously. Viewers are becoming more loyal to programmes than channels, but in this ITV already has the high ground.
Programmes such as Coronation Street, London’s Burning, The Bill, Heartbeat and Cracker all attract large audiences but they could be larger and more loyal. More frequent on-air promotions are a necessity. Channel 4 and Sky are much stronger in this area with constant signposting well in advance of transmissions. Aggressively placed advertising throughout the year would sustain and increase interest. The additional benefits of watching ITV in terms of free films and free sport should also be included in this communication. I believe ITV has nothing to be defensive about. It remains the strongest player by far and should attack on this theme.