Magazine article Variety

Transformer's Origins Story

Magazine article Variety

Transformer's Origins Story

Article excerpt

AT MIP TV IN CANNES, ITV chief executive Adam Crozier will receive Variety's Achievement in Intl. Television Award. It is an honor that is rooted in the recent past.

Before Crozier joined the U.K. commercial broadcaster six years ago, ITV had been on the ropes.

"We are scrapping for our lives at the moment," a senior exec said in 2009. Management seemed resigned to a steady decline in its fortunes.

The company is in a far happier place now. Take, for instance, its stock price. On March 4, 2010, it was 79¢; five years later - on the day its annual report was published - it's up 339% to $3.47.

Once Crozier came onboard in April 2010, he set about implementing a plan to transform the company, with two big goals: to reduce the reliance on advertising revenue, and to widen the focus from a single territory, the U.K., into the global market.

The plan has been distilled subsequently into three strategic objectives: to maximize audience and revenue share from its free-to-air broadcast and VOD business; to grow its international content business; and to build a global pay and distribution business.

Back in 2010, morale at ITV was not high, but it is now. Staff surveys when Crozier joined showed only "around 65% were really engaged with the company, because they'd been through quite a tough time," Crozier says. "Over the last couple of years it's been into the 90s with people really enjoying what they do."

This is important, Crozier says, as it reflects the culture he has tried to create at ITV.

"We work very hard at creating a culture that is both commercial and creative in equal measure and creating an environment that encourages people to work very hard but also have a lot of fun."

The other key to the company's ethos is its commitment to making shows that are both very popular and very good.

"We are at our best when we are right at the heart of popular culture. That's what we do better than anybody else," he says. "As we all know the toughest thing in many ways is to be very popular and very good. That sweet spot is what everybody is striving for, but that certainly is what we try to do."

Although ITV has rapidly become a global entertainment business, and is on course to earn 50% of its revenue from non-advertising sources, the backbone of the business remains its dominant role among free-to-air commercial broadcasters in the U.K.

"There are hundreds of channels in the U.K., all of which can deliver for advertisers cheap frequency, which is small audiences many times over. There is only ITV that can deliver these mass audiences - 99% plus of (programs with audiences of) 5 million or more, and 95% plus of 3 million or more," Crozier says. "What that means for big advertisers is you have got to have ITV at the heart of your campaign, which is why our advertising share last year was 45.9%. So that means in effect we are the most powerful marketing platform in the U.K."

The key to maintaining that dominant position is having great shows. "Generating those big audiences is only possible if you keep investing in great content," Crozier says.

Word-of-mouth helps drive ratings. So how does ITV make its shows the subject of water-cooler conversations?

"First of all having great shows, and making sure that the schedule has within it a number of great live shows that can really drive the conversation, whether it is 'I Am a Celebrity . …

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