It’s not just tennis 

1 July 2009

ITV1 slumps to all-time ratings low

This is rather hard to believe even allowing for ITV1’s lax summer schedule combined with Wimbledon tennis and the slow but continuing growth of multichannel television; namely the fact that ITV1 suffered the worst ratings in its 54-year history last week as it slumped to an all-hours share of just 16.1%.

As others may have suggested, ITV and its advertisers might not be unduly bothered at this ignominious milestone being reached since it can still claim the spoils of success from Britain’s Got Talent and the X Factor, but this is a shocking indictment for what should still be the UK’s largest (and is the most established) commercial broadcaster.

It seems that ITV’s long-standing neglect of its daytime schedule for ITV1 combined with an anti-imports policy have finally caught up with it, and since it’s no longer in a position to try things too radical, ITV has been left stranded with a whole raft of rapidly-aging shows with the inability to spend much money on replacing them.

Of course if ITV had spent time freshening up its schedule at the start of the decade as opposed to limping on with This Morning, Loose Women, etc., in the daytime, along with cultivating replacements for existing peak time programming that were nearing retirement (such as A Touch of Frost), then it would undoubtedly be in a stronger position today.

But ITV got distracted with the emerging Pop Idol/Popstars type of programming (remember Will Young and Gareth Gates?), whilst simultaneously planning and executing the Granada-Carlton merger together with numerous associated regional cutbacks.

So whilst ITV was merrily handing out P45’s to loyal and long-serving staff, the schedule outside of quick-fix reality TV and poorly conceived drama began to stagnate, and a whole selection of failed peak time ‘experiments’ combined with the inability to stick with anything that remotely showed any long-term promise virtually sealed the deal.

By the time Michael Grade arrived on the scene in 2007 it was really too late to do anything much at this stage, since the peaktime schedule had turned into a virtual firefight which in turn consumed even more time and money. Then a recession came along to block the free use of what little spare income there was left at this point.

The excuse that viewer loyalty no longer exists courtesy of a greater choice of TV channels may still carry some weight, but if ITV continues to decline at this rate then ITV1 may end up faring little better than Sky 1 in terms of popularity when the soaps/reality TV juggernauts are removed from the equation.

A member of the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System
Liverpool, Saturday 20 July 2024