Magazine article Marketing

Media Analysis: Grade Gambles on Ten

Magazine article Marketing

Media Analysis: Grade Gambles on Ten

Article excerpt

Can a reinstated News at Ten recapture its glory days and boost ITV1's ratings and reputation, asks Jeremy Lee.

It is easy to assume that ITV executive chairman Michael Grade, who has decided to reinstate News at Ten, is trying to turn back the clock to a golden era of broadcasting.

When ITV shared a television news duopoly with the BBC - and when Grade was controller of London Weekend Television - News at Ten was appointment-to-view television. Even as recently as 10 years ago, it was considered a prestigious enough programme for advertisers to use it for the launch of a TV ad campaign.

However, eight years ago, and after substantial lobbying from Grade's predecessor Charles Allen, ITV was given permission, despite massive political and public opposition, to axe News at Ten to make way for uninterrupted drama, film and live football coverage. After 32 years, it would be replaced by an 11pm programme.

In terms of ratings, the decision to shift the bulletin proved disastrous almost instantly when audience figures slumped. This was compounded by the decision of the then-BBC director-general, Greg Dyke, to move the Nine O'Clock News to the vacant 10pm slot.

In an astonishing volte-face, and following pressure from an Independent Television Commission concerned about the decline in ratings, ITV then reinstated a 10pm bulletin for three days a week, leading to wags christening the service 'news at when?'

Viewer exodus

In 2004, following further tweaks, ITV finally scheduled its peak-time news at 10.30pm, but the continued indecision had taken its toll - just one month after the relaunch, the programme's ratings slumped to their lowest level at 1.5m viewers. It seemed an ignominious end to a broadcasting institution, and ITV executives expressed their regret at the strategy, with Grade previously describing it as a 'dreadful mistake'.

While ITV has yet to officially confirm the reinstatement of News at Ten, insiders say negotiations are at an advanced stage and the bulletin, hosted by former anchor Sir Trevor McDonald, will be a feature of the 2008 schedule.

Industry opinion on whether Grade's plan will reinvigorate ITV1 is split. 'My initial reaction was 'What?' and 'Why?',' says Richard Oliver, managing partner at Universal McCann. 'It feels like a very old and odd decision, and certainly not a massive step forward. …

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