UK television network ITV has confirmed plans for a new digital channel.

A third station to sit beside terrestrial flagship ITV1 and digital offshoot ITV2 will form part of a programme of investment over the coming months. This spending spree will follow the merger of the broadcaster's dominant shareholders, Granada and Carlton Communications, to create ITV plc.

The new channel will be titled ITV3, and planning has already started according to Mick Desmond, ceo-designate of the merged firm's broadcasting unit.

Speaking at a recent conference, Desmond revealed that the channel's content would consist of films and lifestyle programming -- not the focus on classic drama earlier reports had predicted [WAMN: 06-Jan-04]. It will also offer a "nursery slope" for new shows, allowing them to trial on digital TV before transferring to the main terrestrial channel if successful.

No launch date has yet been fixed -- Desmond said only that it could be later this year or early next. "We are not going to rush at this," he declared. "There is no deadline hurtling towards us."

His speech also touched on the Contract Rights Renewal mechanism for setting ad rates, imposed on ITV by the government to prevent the merged firm abusing its dominant position in the television airtime market. The complex system, which effectively caps prices at existing levels, came under fire from some advertising groups, but Desmond insists there is nothing to worry about.

"While much has been made of this, we have been trading like this for three or four years," he continued. "We are starting to look outwards now and we have been given the opportunity to act like a market leader."

Data sourced from: Media Week (UK); additional content by WARC staff