ITV Needs More Content: All3media The Solution?
Last month, ITV revealed a good set of financial results for 2010. However CEO Adam Crozier is shrewd enough to know that the UK's leading commercial broadcaster still has plenty of work to do if it is to thrive in the new digital era.
Structurally, ITV's problem is that it is still heavily reliant on ad revenue. Crozier realizes that the company needs to start making more money from PayTV subscriptions, digital media, the ownership of intellectual property rights and international programme production, but has yet to make much headway with any. Indeed, the main concern in the 2010 results was that revenues from production dropped.
Crozier is pretty frank about ITV's problems. In an interview with Telegraph Newspapers this week, he said ITV needs to be "more robust and shock-proof." In terms of immediate priorities, he said: "We need to really invest in developing our content business. The key thing is to see lots more ideas coming through, particularly in the three areas that drive the big audiences here but are also the key export markets: these are entertainment, drama and factual entertainment."
In practical terms, this means two things. Firstly, ITV needs to secure an ownership position in a major programming franchise. In the past, international revenues from hit series like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and The X Factor have gone to the producers, not ITV. ITV needs to try and do something about that, though it won't be easy because indie producers are in no mood to share their IP assets.
Secondly, ITV needs to ramp up its production capabilities. In theory, it could do this in-house. But it might do better to acquire an independent producer, which would provide some distance from the corporate body. Clearly, the big opportunity here is all3media, which has two ITV veterans running the company (Steve Morrison, David Liddiment) and another heading the distribution arm (Louise Pedersen). While a deal would ultimately depend on a) price-tag and b) desire to sell, there's no question that all3media would be a highly desirable addition for ITV, giving it control of a large network of indies with proven international track record. Handled right, all3media could do for ITV what FremantleMedia does so well for broadcasting giant RTL.