PERSPECTIVE: ITV2 must be edgy or it will struggle to find a real identity

By CLAIRE BEALE, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 11 December 1998 12:00AM

Take the pubescent pop sensation, Billie, and the thuggish QPR player, Vinnie Jones, shake with a drop or two of champagne in LWT’s bar, stir in a few low-grade celebrities, add a pyrotechnic display with all the empty sparkle we’ve come to expect from TV PR and, as if by magic, ITV2 appears.

Take the pubescent pop sensation, Billie, and the thuggish QPR

player, Vinnie Jones, shake with a drop or two of champagne in LWT’s

bar, stir in a few low-grade celebrities, add a pyrotechnic display with

all the empty sparkle we’ve come to expect from TV PR and, as if by

magic, ITV2 appears.



On screen this new, young, vibrant TV contender was introduced to the

nation - or at least to lucky cable homes and those punters who have

managed to snaffle an ONdigital set-top box - by stars including Michael

Barrymore, Trevor McDonald, Ronan Keating, Samantha Janus, Terry

Venables and the casts of Corrie and Emmerdale.



But this rag-bag of tired and over-exposed celebrities hints at the

dichotomy behind ITV2’s positioning. ITV2 is being billed as a general

entertainment channel, aimed at slightly younger viewers than its parent

and, particularly, at a slightly more male audience.



The trouble is, the new channel is already steeped in the ways of

ITV.



The ITV Network Centre’s marketing director, John Hardie, is running

ITV2 and the channel has recently clashed with old-guard ITV production

companies who are reportedly ’furious’ that ITV2 has awarded a third of

its commissions to independent production companies. Add the channel’s

odd mix of new, more edgy programming with reruns of ITV soaps and

popular series loved by traditional ITV viewers and it seems ITV2 will

struggle to find its own identity.



ITV2 is in danger of trying to be too many things to too many

people.



The familiarity of the ITV name will help attract viewers but the danger

is they will be viewers already easily accessible through the main

channel.



Yet ITV2 represents a real opportunity for ITV. The comparisons with

BBC1 and BBC2 have passed into cliche but if ITV2 can replicate BBC2’s

relationship with its bigger sister, it can only add to the emotional

capital of the primary brand.



ITV can’t afford to take risks on its main channel - its own share

guarantees and advertisers’ demands won’t allow it. ITV2 potentially

provides a real solution. It offers the chance to test new and

innovative comedy and drama before showcasing them on the main ITV

channel. It also gives lighter ITV viewers a way into the ITV franchise

and is a route to building the audiences of the future.



In many ways, ITV2 should represent ITV’s R&D, backed by its modest

pounds 21 million budget for original programming. It’s a chance for ITV

to break free from the shackles of viewing share and advertiser pressure

and to put into practice some of the vision it has for the future. The

channel has introduced a radical - radical for ITV, anyway - airtime

sales policy based on fixed prices. It would be a pity if Billie and

Vinnie’s efforts fell flat because, on the programming front, ITV2 can’t

be similarly brave and innovative.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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