Take that, Thames 

24 July 2014 tbs.pm/5177

Take that, ThamesThe London Television Consortium – later to be London Weekend Television – made several glaring errors in its application to take over Friday evenings, Saturday and Sunday in the capital.

Their biggest was to assume that at weekends people wanted the type of programming the ex-BBC and ex-Rediffusion management wanted at weekends – highbrow, arty BBC-2 programming to replace the dreadful but popular Sunday Palladium and other claptrap from ATV. They thought the audience would watch whatever was put in front of them – just look at what they were watching already! – and could gain the same pleasure from an opera or an exploration of the Great Painters as they did from the Tiller Girls and Beat the Clock.

The company survived, just, a brush with bankrupcy thanks to Rupert Murdoch’s pockets, brimming as they were with News of the World profits. He took the station downmarket and directly to where the viewers wanted it to be before the ITA suggested that he slunk off back to Fleet Street if LWT wanted to keep its licence.

LWT’s prospects improved with the new schedule, but the company still suffered from the second mistake they had made in 1967. The consortium had assumed that they would be fighting Rediffusion for London’s advertising money. Rediffusion had rarely fought hard for this – it tended to arrive by the wheelbarrowful thanks to the ITV monopoly. If LWT could corner just a bit of that cash, everything would be tickety-boo.

Rediffusion found itself out of a contract and in came ABC to pick over the bones and take from the old company whatever they needed. ABC took the documentary, news and schools departments and dispensed with the rest, including the sales department, who upped and left for LWT. ABC’s famously fierce and pushy sales department came down from Birmingham and Manchester where they had fought for every penny against strong competition from ATV and Granada. They immediately began sewing up contracts across London, helped by LWT’s lack of viewers and sales force unused to such street fighting.

The ABC-Rediffusion combine, Thames, soon dominated London’s advertising market and viewers. LWT would never manage to compete with Thames as efficiently as the ITA had hoped a 2.5 day contract in London would. In this print advert from the 1970s, LWT slams Thames, reminding advertisers that viewing figures were higher on weekends and people took more interest in what they were watching. The advert still stings today. It didn’t work, mind.

You Say

1 response to this article

garry simpson 27 March 2016 at 9:27 pm

Interesting to remember [As a 51 year old disabled viewer] That the late Sir David Frost and Co was to make EXACTLY the same mistake with TV am 15 years later with TV am. From High Brow [Which viewers did not watch] To Low Brow] In TV am”s case Roland Rat. and of course like LWT the unions going on strike. Only going to prove that History only repeats its self when people do! As Dennis Norden said In the early days LWT”s programmes were axed so Quickly you couldn”t put a deck chair too them! Rest in Peace Sir David Rest in Peace my Mum who passed away one month ago. She loved your three times a week chat show from 1968 until 1971 which was broadcast in the South by Southern Television. … Thank You for who ever read this. Thank You.

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