ITV’s pounds 20 million investment in quality drama for the autumn
season will not address the underlying problem of declining audiences,
agencies warned this week.
ITV has unveiled an autumn line-up centred on the ITV Drama Premiere
season of high-profile drama productions. The programmes on offer range
from adaptations of classics such as Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders and
Jane Austen’s Emma, to a contemporary story about the Hillsborough
disaster. They will be backed by returning regulars such as Soldier
Soldier and Heartbeat.
Marcus Plantin, the director of the Network Centre, said of the drama
package: ‘It will be a warning shot across the bows of all our
competitors, and will maintain our position as Britain’s leading TV
However, while media buyers have generally welcomed the big new costume
dramas, many questioned the wisdom of recommissioning too many existing
series. One buyer singled out London’s Burning and Taggart: ‘Both of
these series are rather tired formats now,’ he said. ‘I feel the money
could have been better spent developing new contemporary dramas.’
Buyers also questioned the strength of other areas of the new ITV
schedule. David Cuff, the head of broadcasting at Initiative Media,
said: ‘Quality drama is no longer a unique selling point. It’s an over-
‘Where ITV really used to be strong - in light entertainment - its
offerings are very tired and it doesn’t seem to have done much about
LWT is understood to have commissioned some of its own light
entertainment series for the autumn, bowing out of the Network Centre’s
schedules over the weekends. ‘If LWT is doing this, it suggests that it
thinks there are some weaknesses in the network schedule,’ one media
director pointed out.
ITV’s comedy offering, including returns of the Upper Hand and My Good
Friend, feature films and sport, were also criticised by TV buyers.