Britain’s ailing ITV network reacted with kneejerk haste to threats from major advertisers that they will switch their budgets unless the current desertion of viewers to other channels is stemmed.

And, presto, from the magician’s hat came a £61 million ($96.02m; €97.23m) cash injection intended to reinvigorate the network’s £775 programming budget for 2003, set only four months ago. In effect, this is a year-on-year increase of £100m – once the exceptional cost of this year’s soccer World Cup coverage is factored out of the equation.

This feat of prestidigitation follows news last weekend that a number of the network’s major advertisers, among them home improvement giant B&Q and BT’s mobile brand O2, would look elsewhere for the audiences that ITV is failing to deliver.

The broadcaster’s outbound director of channels David Liddiment hailed the new investment: “This significant increase in our programme budget signals the scale of our ambition for next year. ITV1 is back on form this autumn and, with greater schedule investment in 2003, we are confident that the positive trend will continue.”

ITV’s programme budget has stagnated over the past two years as the network’s controlling duo, Carlton Communications and Granada Media, tightened the purse strings in the face of the collapse of ITV Digital and the slowdown in adspend.

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