Magazine article Variety

Flagship in Full Sail

Magazine article Variety

Flagship in Full Sail

Article excerpt

Keeping a traditional TV network healthy has never been easy. In an Internet-driven era the challenge is greater still.

But Peter Fincham, ITV's director of television, is convinced that despite growing competition and new viewing habits, audiences and advertisers remain hooked on the broadcast model.

"In a changing world, there is still the phenomenon of the big mainstream channel delivering high-quality programs across a broad range of genres," Fincham says.

He is the webhead responsible for greenlighting "Downton Abbey" and "Broadchurch" for ITV, which remains the U.K.'s most popular commercial terrestrial channel.

Two years ago, Fincham helped ITV increase its audience share for the first time in 23 years, winning a clutch of BAFTAs in the process.

In 2014, ITV's "Cilla," a biopic of the British singer, Cilia Black, set in the early 1960s, was the most-watched new drama on any British channel, winning an average audience of 8.3 million viewers and a 31% audience share.

Fincham's ITV portfolio also boasts two of Blighty's most successful and enduring soaps, "Coronation Street" and "Emmerdale," entertainment juggernauts "The X Factor" and "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!," plus an award-winning news show.

"A big part of this job is having the right talent on board," stresses Fincham, "whether it's Ant and Dec ("Saturday Night Takeaway"), Julian Fellowes ("Downton Abbey"), Chris Chibnall ("Broadchurch") or Simon Cowell ("The X Factor")."

Prior to joining ITV in 2008 Fincham was controller of BBC1, the pubcaster's flagship service and main rival. Previously he had enjoyed a successful and lucrative career in independent production as CEO of high-profile British shingle, Talkback Thames.

"Running Britain's two biggest channels, and all the experience that provides, gives you a bit of perspective," he says. "The technology changes, viewing habits change but audiences still want the shared viewing experience. Some parts of the audience may want to binge watch on boxed sets - and we can provide that too via Sky - but linear TV is turning out to be incredibly resilient."

He notes that the Internet was supposed to destroy mainstream TV, but he thinks that if anything, it's enhanced it. …

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