New ITV Chairman Pep-Talks Nervy Staffers

18 December 2006

LONDON: Michael Grade, incoming executive chairman at Britain's largest commercial broadcaster ITV, last week visited his new fiefdom to press the flesh and offer reassurance to senior staff, a-twitch at his reported plans for sweeping change.

Grade, whose resumé resembles a carousel ride (two stints at the BBC, a move to commercial TV, a spell stateside as president of Embassy TV, back to the BBC; and now a return to commercial TV), reassured staff that his widely reported intention to institute a "one-hundred day review" at the ailing broadcaster was "news to me".

However, he warned the assembled executives he'll be convening a two-day 'away day' early in the new year so as to get to know his current top team - an event some insiders predict will generate more competitive tension than an audition for A Chorus Line.

Grade urged his team to resume "taking risks" - a practice akin to regicide under ITV's former management - and said he would support them in their decisions.

Staffers liked what they heard. One told Media Guardian: "There was a smile on everyone's faces afterwards and a sigh of relief. It was good to hear the kind of things that have been missing for the past few years."

  • The 'Grade Effect' - and equally probable - the 'BSkyB effect' has already made its mark on the haruspices at Goldman Sachs, who late last week issued a "buy" note for ITV shares.

    It stated: "We believe the current ITV stock price implies too pessimistic an outlook for advertising revenues at ITV1. In our view, the market is underestimating a significant easing in multichannel and cyclical pressures from 2007.

    "The outlook from 2007 from multichannel pressure on ITV1 audience share, compared to the 2002-2005 period, is remarkably benign."

    In March this year, Goldman Sachs led an unsuccessful takeover bid for ITV.

    Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff