A lot has been written recently about the troubles faced by ITV of late and all the signs are that the broadcaster has little idea how to reverse decline in audiences and revenues.
Recently it was announced that ITV has asked OFCOM for permission to reduce the number of hours given to children’s programmes shown on weekdays.
Today it confirmed it would halve the length of ITV1’s lunchtime news bulletin from September 4th.
Elsewhere it’s reported that the ITV1 channel is likely to reintroduce bought-in US drama to the main evening schedule.
These developments seem to suggest that ITV has given up being a serious UK broadcaster and producer and is re-shaping itself to compete with the myriad of cheap digital-only channels. We should all hope this isn’t the case.
Citing a decline in TV advertising spend the broadcaster bought the Friends Reunited website as a platform on which to sell online advertising.
It has also launched the ITV Play quiz channel. Both have succeeded in bringing in cash but I can’t help wondering if ITV have missed the most obvious money raising solution open to them: merchandise.
According to figures in the BBC Worldwide "e;more than half a million copies of the [Doctor Who] series one DVDs and more than 200,000 copies of Doctor Who books across nine titles were sold"e;. ABC figures released last week show Doctor Who Adventures shipping 77,000 copies a fortnight.
This represents a lot of cash handed over at the tills, even allowing for the fact that some of the money will go to the retailer that still suggests a healthy return for BBC Worldwide.
As a quick look at BBCShop.com shows, Doctor Who isn’t the only property the BBC has to merchandise. Modern successes like Judge John Deed, Little Britain, and Coast sit alongside fondly remembered classics such as Bergerac and As Time Goes By.
Even where these shows are produced by the independent sector the BBC has a level of input as the commissioner.
Now have a look at ITV’s ‘superstore’, shopping by programme is the order of the day here.
It’s almost impossible to find anything and selecting some shows brings up the helpful message that "e;This category…contains no products"e;.
It seems impossible to browse by product type and many of the shows listed – Magnum, Airwolf, Knightrider – ITV had no creative input in.
The company are simply acting as the retailer rather than the content producer or licensor where the real money is to be made.
This then is the nub of the problem, when you look at ITV’s schedules where are their easily merchandised programmes? How is it possible that a commercial broadcaster has spent so little time and effort building up brands which can be easily monetarised?
The answer of course is a lack of vision.
Two hours earlier in the schedules and Ultimate Force could have presented an easy route into the toy shops.
Instead the cartoon-violence packed show is inexplicably scheduled when the audience most likely to be attracted by the content are safely in bed.
Of course I’m not suggesting every show on ITV should be a glorified advert for a toy or book range but the current line-up offers few opportunities at a time when the company needs to exploit every money making avenue open to it.
My suspicion is that ‘cheap’ has long been the deciding factor – how else can one explain the ‘investment’ in ‘Love Island’ rather than a high calibre drama or the decision to start up ITV Play where the only cost is a few air-head ‘presenters’?
Where are the risks in the schedule? Where are the ‘talk about’ shows?
One IMDB one user compares the BBC/Kudos series Hustle with "e;the Lew Grade/ITC adventure shows of the 1960’s"e; and they’re right to do so. It’s just a shame that there’s little prospect of such a non-forumlaric show ever appearing on what is meant to be Britain’s premiere commercial channel.