'Jam Tomorrow,' ITV Boss tells Investors

13 September 2007

LONDON: ITV's long-suffering investors, many of them US-based, were told Wednesday that they'll finally reap their just rewards by 2012 (the year in which London will host the Olympic Games - if the money doesn't run out).

Meantime, stockholders await tangible evidence of progress, given that Michael Grade (pictured), ITV's executive chairman appointed in January, has yet to deliver anything other than promises.

In fairness, few in the business expected otherwise.

The nation's largest commercial broadcaster has been off-course and (and to all intents rudderless) since its birth by merger in January 2004.

Even ITV's Great White Hope - a master scheduler with an entrepreneur's mindset - cannot achieve a 180 degree turnaround in just eight months.

But Grade, whose past record of success has been achieved in safer havens, will soon need to produce concrete proof of his prowess at ITV's helm. And on Wednesday, in a strategy update for stockholders, he set out his stall promising better programming and an expanded internet presence.

"Our priority is to put our own house in order, making our assets work better, harder and more in tune with each other," Grade said. All of which, if achieved by 2012, will double ITV's content revenues to £1.2 billion ($2.44bn; €1.76bn).

"By 2012, I want ITV to be widely acknowledged as the UK's favourite source of free, original entertainment across all popular platforms and devices, not just on television," proclaimed the GWH.

Currently, 54% of ITV programmes are commissioned from in-house resources and Grade aims to increase this to 75%. There will be a new Global Content Division, headed by former Five ceo Dawn Airey, with a £200 million budget to acquire production companies.

Moreover the broadcaster aims to reverse the sliding audience share of its flagship ITV1 channel and also boost ratings on its ITV2 digital channel.

Grade hopes to build online revenues to £150m by 2010, with at least 75% accruing from online display, video and local classified advertising. Priority is attached to the insertion of individually targeted ads into online video streams.

The growth plan, Grade believes, can be self-financing. "We will pay for new investment in content through greater efficiencies throughout the business; and for major new business investments and acquisitions out of disposals of remaining non-core assets," he said.

Among those facing Grade's back, some say they detected crossed fingers ... on both hands.

Data sourced from MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff