ITV Plans More Digital Channels, May Buy BBC’s UKTV

01 September 2004

Following news of the upward trend in its advertising revenue [WAMN: 31-Aug-04], Britain's ITV hopes to introduce a positive element to viewing figures with the planned launch of more digital channels.

As the audience number slumped to an all-time low for the nation's top commercial broadcaster, ceo Charles Allen aims to resolve the problem by introducing new channels to maintain competition in today's digital world.

Earlier this year, ITV disclosed it would increase annual digital expenditure by £36 million ($64.6m; €53.5m) and reap £150m a year in advertising revenue from it by 2005.

Although the spending hike is limited by the broadcaster's £700m debt inherited from the merger of Carlton Communications and Granada Media, Allen has nevertheless indicated a readiness to act on channel purchases and collaborations in about a year.

Within five years, he hopes to rival the BBC's eight digital channels and compete with BSkyB's sixty.

One possible course of action is to acquire the ten BBC Worldwide digital channels including UKTV Gold and UKTV History. Allen and BBC director-general Mark Thompson reportedly discussed UKTV during last weekend's Edinburgh International Television Festival.

As the BBC has recently been encouraged to sell its non-core assets, such a move would neatly solve both corporations' problems.

Allen has also hinted at the possibility of collaborating with other (overseas) networks on digital children's TV services. "I do see us partnering with international partners to get more money onscreen. We're talking to everybody," he said.

According to ITV managing director Mick Desmond, nothing will be formally announced until after the launch of new channel ITV3 this November.

Data sourced from: and BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff