MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Why TV execs need to sell the medium before it is too late

Survivor used to be a word that signalled resilience, hardiness and

irrepressibility. Over the past few weeks, though, the Survivor show has

become a metaphor for the perils of the channel that is broadcasting

this execrable tosh.



The title of this great white scheduling hope (boring people prancing

round in swimsuits on a desert island in pursuit of one million pounds)

has lent itself to a rush of almost panicky press reports questioning

whether the recent downturn in ITV's revenue sees ITV truly on the

rocks.



The Survivor show symptomises all that should send ITV on to the rocks:

a creatively redundant programme, poorly packaged and without a hint of

flair. In this economic climate, with cliched belts being pulled taut

over sagging bellies, ITV's programming blunders are thrown into full

relief. But dragging Survivor and the ITV schedule into the dock to help

answer for the on-going revenue slump is spurious to say the least.

Survivor might be crap, but ITV's problems cut a lot deeper.



Last week, Granada announced a major cost-cutting restructure with 100

job losses amid confessions of a bleak ad outlook; even Corrie's lead

actors are threatening strike action over salary cuts. Carlton is

expected to follow suit with stringent cut-backs. Downturn might be

biting us all on the arse, but it's got all ITV's soft wobbly bits in

its maw and it ain't letting go.



In some respects, this is no bad thing. The channel is still stuffed

with overpaid, under-performing senior executives (true, I can only

speak with any authority here about the sales side of ITV), whose

ability to play the bastard, flex an expense account and turn in a neat

handicap on the golf course seem to be the key attributes warranting a

salary of City proportions. The downturn could be an opportunity to slay

some of the wastrels that still linger in the upper echelons, although I

suspect there'll be plenty of young footsoldiers put to the sword before

the marshalls fall under the spotlight.



Crucially, though, this should also be a catalyst that galvanises the TV

sales system to get out and not only sell Carlton or Granada - or ITV or

Channel 4 or Channel 5 - but to sell television. The ability of the TV

medium to provide a cost-effective communications solution in the midst

of belt-tightening is coming under close scrutiny and all channels are

being squeezed by contracting ad budgets. And there can be few

advertisers who aren't enjoying watching the fat cats squirm.



Yet, despite turkeys such as Survivor, TV is offering something of a

bargain right now, with airtime prices comparable to those of a year or

two back. Unless this message is driven home swiftly and sharply, other

media will sneak in with advertising alternatives that might just

continue to prove attractive once we hit upturn again. It's time for TV

sales executives to get out there and sell their medium ... a novel

experience for many.