Agencies welcome ITV recovery plan

Media agencies have offered a cautious welcome to ITV's ambitious five-year recovery plan, which was unveiled by Michael Grade, its executive chairman, yesterday.

Buyers did, however, raise concerns ITV would struggle to hit its online revenue target of £150 million by 2010.

Chris Locke, the group trading director at Starcom, said: "ITV needs a coherent sales strategy (for ITV.com) rather than bundling everything in. Around 750,000 people went to YouTube to watch the Cadbury Gorilla ad; I'm not sure ITV can match that yet."

Grade also unveiled plans to double revenue from selling its own content to £1.2 billion by 2012. ITV2 will receive a boost in its programming budget of £20 million, and the focus for ITV1 in 2008 will be on improving its performance in the weekday 9pm slot.

ITV Play programming will be dropped from all ITV channels by the end of the year, after a series of phone-in scandals hit broadcasters.

Chris Hayward, the head of investment at ZenithOptimedia, was also sceptical about the online revenue target, but added: "In terms of targets for programming sales and audience performance, we expect ITV to be bullish, but it is reassuring for the buying fraternity that it has been put in such strong terms."

ITV said that third-quarter ITV1 ad revenues have increased by 2 per cent, but that the channel's revenues for the first three quarters fell 6 per cent overall.