Pay-TV Outguns ITV in Shootout for Britain's Key Viewers

11 November 2002

British TV viewers in the coveted 16-34 age group are deserting ITV in their droves in favour of pay-TV rivals such as NewsCorp-controlled BSkyB and the US cable networks NTL and Telewest, according to BARB (Broadcasters' Audience Research Board), the audience measurement body jointly owned by the BBC, Carlton Communications, Granada Media, Channel 4, Channel 5, BSkyB and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising.

During the period January to September, pay-TV snatched 34.2% of total commercial impacts within the key 16-34 age group - a staggering 25.8% year-on-year improvement – although some industry insiders question whether this is as much a reflection of the revised methodology introduced by BARB in January as it is of a shift in viewing trends?

Accurate or not, the data was played down by an ITV spokesperson: “Cable and satellite now have hundreds of channels and it is inevitable that at some point they will be bigger than ITV,” she said. The October figures will show that growth of cable and satellite is decelerating, she insisted, while recent investments in the autumn schedule [WAMN: 01-Oct-02] will boost ITV’s share of impacts.

Deutsche Bank last week issued ‘sell notes’ for ITV’s controlling duo, Carlton Communications and Granada Media, citing the network’s structural problems and the fact that it is losing more revenue, more quickly, than any other European broadcaster.

As one seasoned observed, ITV is now reaping what it has sown over decades of what many advertisers and agencies see as quasi-monopolistic complacency and arrogance.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff