Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: ITV Finally Has a Cracker of a Strategy

Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: ITV Finally Has a Cracker of a Strategy

Article excerpt

As the comedian Frank Carson often announces modestly: 'It's the way I tell 'em - that's a cracker.'

But that's hardly an accurate description of the performance of ITV these days. After all, it has been quite a while since the network produced a prime-time drama as good as Cracker - as noted last week by that series' creator, Jimmy McGovern. But when looking at stories about ITV's results, it certainly matters how you 'tell 'em'.

It would be remarkably easy to give a selective rendition of the facts and trends to paint a picture bleak enough to make an ITV executive suicidal.

Advertising likely to be down 10% in the first quarter, and how long will it be before the march of multichannel TV takes ITV1's share below the 20% mark?

Then, for good measure, along comes the recent Google survey apparently showing that people are now spending considerably more time online than watching television.

Surely the game's up?

Tell it another way and it is equally easy to portray ITV plc as an organisation in rude health, with annual profits up 36% to pounds 452m and a flagship channel that will remain the biggest mass-market commercial channel in the UK for the foreseeable future.

Anyway, there is lots of revenue to come from the World Cup. And presumably Unilever, the biggest advertiser in the UK, is behaving rationally when it signs an advertising deal with ITV worth pounds 200m over four years.

As for the Google survey, leaving aside the self-serving numbers, there is the small point that people spend most of their time online when they are at work and wouldn't have been watching television anyway. It's not an either-or situation.

The competitive threats are obvious, but the extraordinary truth may be that ITV has managed to find a serviceable strategy - even though the executives who recently lost their jobs may not agree.

The embrace of multichannel broadcasting may make things increasingly difficult for ITV1, but it was undoubtedly the only way forward.

What a mess ITV would be in in five years' time if it was left watching the fading embers of one national channel. Instead, the launch of CITV, with ITV Play to follow, will help protect some of that revenue.

The theory of ITV chief executive Charles Allen that news services will all move to mobile phones in future, so you no longer need a 24-hour TV news channel such as ITV News, is a more questionable judgment. …

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