Britain's ITV1 network, having failed to hit any of its five self-imposed performance targets in 2001, has switched-off the glaring public spotlight on its annual audience goals in favour of discreet mano-a-mano meetings with advertisers.

Out goes the intensely scrutinized annual January presentation of viewing targets – introduced just twelve months ago to replace the average annual peak-time audience target (which ITV also failed to meet). In its stead, a series of private meetings at which adsales teams will suggest to individual advertisers how they can best gauge ITV's performance.

Last year's openly-declared five performance targets proved a growing embarrassment for ITV as viewers continue to desert the nation’s largest commercial broadcaster for the newly revitalised BBC and multichannel satellite/cable rivals. Of these targets two are seen by advertisers and agencies as key issues:

• Maintaining ITV’s five-year average peaktime viewing lead over BBC1 of 7.5% (instead this narrowed to 6.9% last year, according to BARB figures for the first 50 weeks of 2001).

• Narrowing the BBC's daytime lead and attracting the biggest audience share in digital television homes (neither were achieved).

Behind the revamp is ITV commercial director Jim Hytner recruited from Channel 5 last year [WAMN: 11-Jul-01]. He was unavailable to explain his rationale but according to a subordinate he believes it necessary to modify last January’s targets in the wake of changes to ITV schedules, as well as those of its rivals.

Analysts approved the move as logical given the events of the past year and the future challenges confronting ITV1.

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