NEWS: Buyers question ITV autumn line-up

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’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

channel.’



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-

supplied area.



‘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

it.’



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.



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