UK broadcaster ITV has had to adapt quickly, both commercially and in terms of production, during the current health crisis, and chief executive Carolyn McCall believes the company is now bouncing back.

Speaking as part of ITV’s ongoing Powerbank series of webinars, McCall described the COVID-19 outbreak as a “very big shock to the system” – as major advertising events like the Euro 2020 football championship were cancelled and as social-distancing requirements have effectively ended its content production schedule.

“We went into crisis management mode in the first ten days, we had the processes and procedures to do that,” said McCall. “What has been most encouraging is everyone has got used to this way of working very quickly.

“I’m pleased we’ve now got to the stage where we’re planning ahead, we’re being proactive, we’re being innovative. It’s a relief to get into that mode, while also still managing a crisis,” she added. (For more details, read WARC’s report: ITV sees COVID-19 as a ‘catalyst’ for a new approach to content creation.)

It’s a curious time for the media owner: television viewing is up as locked-down consumers settle in front of their screens of an evening, but a squeeze on client ad budgets has meant it’s not seeing the benefit of higher ratings.

A “key challenge”, McCall said, is its ongoing inability to produce content at scale – especially at a time when its ITV Studios arm has become a vital source of income.

It is currently “drip-feeding” pre-recorded editions of scripted dramas, and the British government is said to be keen for ITV to revive production of popular soap operas Emmerdale and Coronation Street in a compliant manner, with storylines reflecting the nation’s socially-distanced predicament.

Skeleton production crews continue to produce over six hours of live programming a day, including breakfast current affairs show Good Morning Britain and daily magazine programme This Morning. However, as McCall spelled out, “You can’t really produce shows in volume when everyone is working from home.”

The only option is to “innovate” through the crisis, she said. One early example of this approach is a new series of ‘Isolation Stories’, 15-minute short dramas featuring recognisable ITV talent and recorded in people’s homes. “It could be a format that actually lasts much longer than the virus,” McCall suggested.

Sourced from WARC