Cool Response to News at Ten Shift

Article excerpt

News at Ten looks set to be moved to a new slot, as ITV chief Richard Eyre tries to boost peaktime audience share. But as Lucy Barrett reports, advertisers have mixed feelings about the change

When Richard Eyre took over as chief executive of ITV last July he made no secret of the fact he planned to give the network's schedule a radical shake-up.

At the heart of the changes is Eyre's attempt to get the Independent Television Commission (ITC) to approve News at Ten's move to a new slot after 31 years.

His rationale is clear: moving the news to 6.30pm will allow ITV to show major films and dramas without an irritating break halfway through, which can encourage people to switch over or go to bed.

This is not the first time attempts have been made to move one of the most established programmes on British television. The last occasion was in August 1993, when John Major famously intervened.

This time, although he has voiced his opinion, it will not be up to the prime minister, Tony Blair. ITV has kept within the rules set by the government and only awaits approval from the ITC. If the changes are approved, they will be implemented in 1999.

Mixed feelings

Opinions are mixed as to whether the new-look ITV will be good for advertisers. Some of them feel the proposed changes should have been made five years ago and say News at Ten is an annoying blip in the schedule. Others believe that, in the changing world of multichannel TV, the news is available at almost any time anyway.

Although many advertisers like the idea of a new evening line-up (see box) and see it as part of Eyre's strategy to build peaktime share against the BBC, most have a wait-and-see attitude.

But advertisers seeking an upmarket audience, such as car manufacturers, will probably take more convincing than others.

News at Ten is considered an important part of a schedule giving access to an elusive AB1 male audience. The 6.30pm news will probably not attract the same calibre of viewer and the general feeling is that 11pm is too late to be a realistic replacement.

"Our target is ABs," says Nigel Brotherton, Volkswagen's communications manager. "You have a limited choice, and taking News at Ten out of the line-up reduces that choice. This will need a lot of thought."

Keith Moor, group marketing manager for advertising and media at Abbey National, will monitor the changes closely. "I understand that ITV must retain its audience, but it must make the right investment in quality," he says. …