Cable, satellite and digital TV rivals have eroded the once-impregnable dominance of Britain’s three terrestrial television channels: ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

According to the Trends in Television report compiled by the UK Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, ITV commanded only 28.9% of the total audience in the four months to April 2001 - down from 30.3% in the same period in 2000. Similar fates befell Channels 4 and 5, the former down from 10.5% to 9.6% and the latter 5.6% to 5.4%.

ITV is especially red-faced at its failure to hold - let alone increase - viewing levels among the lucrative 16-34 age group. Despite an undertaking earlier this year to boost viewing in this age group the network actually lost market share, down to 26.6% from 27.3% in the preceding quarter.

A different story in the cable, satellite and digital TV sector, which collectively hiked its share of overall viewing from 15.4% in Q4 2000 to 18.1% in the period surveyed. The sector also grew its audience share in the 16-34 and ABC1 groups.

ITV managed to better its target in one sector, however. That of maintaining at least a 6.4% lead over its main rival, BBC1, the nation’s largest publicly-owned channel. During the first quarter of 2001, ITV led by 10% - albeit a slippage from the previous quarter’s 10.6%.

Commented New PHD broadcast director Paul Parashar: “The audiences for multichannel homes are still disproportionately young. ITV's whole campaign to address declining audiences in digital homes isn't working at the moment. Although we know ITV will be on SkyDigital soon, it can't be soon enough. From a perspective of commercial value, the danger in the long term is the more audiences these commercial channels lose, the more difficult it is to get them back."

News source: CampaignLive (UK)