‘You Want Upmarket,’ ITV tells Advertisers, ‘You Got It!’

28 May 2002

“An increase in demand from ABC1 advertisers,” has prodded Britain's ITV network into de-mothballing some of its prestige drama productions, presently gathering dust in a storeroom because of an accounting anomaly.

According to ITV head of drama Nick Elliott: “The way we do our accounting means some drama has remained in stock because of the advertising downturn. We will be able to release some of these shows." The dust will be blown from a number of major programmes including an adaptation of Kinglsey Amis's Lucky Jim.

Mick Desmond, joint managing director of ITV and managing director of Granada Media, says that a surprise cash injection of £25 million ($36.45m; €39.47m) will allow the channel to air the programmes in the latter half of this year.

The move may not revive the network’s overall sagging ratings, but it will appeal to upmarket viewers hungry for a morsel of quality from the bovine channel. It will appeal even more to major advertisers in the finance, telecoms and automotive sectors – all eager to reach “the right audiences”.

Says Desmond: “We are seeing an increase in demand from ABC1 advertisers. The growth sectors are telecoms, cars and finance and we know that, in the past, first-run drama has done very well at attracting the right audiences for these advertisers. We believe drama also gives us greater volume of viewing in the post-9pm schedule.”

But there is little danger that ITV will abandon its crowd-pullers such as Pop Idol. Some of the £25m windfall will be devoted to this and similar formulaic fodder for pubescents.

“We will be punctuating the schedule with event programming between now and the end of the year,” says Desmond. “We’ve got three or four event-type shows that are going to come through this autumn and run for a number of weeks. Some … are Pop Idol-type shows and we also have far more programmes featuring interactivity.

Desmond then switched to Churchillian mode: “We're not saying we've completely turned the corner yet … but the first green shoots of an advertising recovery are there. However, what we are determined to do is invest ahead of the recovery. This is the start of the fightback.”

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