NEWS: ITV scrambles to shore up audience ratings landslide

The ITV companies were in emergency discussions this week about funds to improve ITV’s programme line-up in the face of concern over falling audience figures.

The ITV companies were in emergency discussions this week about funds to

improve ITV’s programme line-up in the face of concern over falling

audience figures.



The talks - which are thought to involve ploughing extra millions of

pounds into its autumn schedule - came in the wake of figures released

earlier this month which showed ITV’s share of viewing had slumped to

its lowest for four years.



One ITV sales chief admitted that the issue of funding was ‘critical

right now’. He added: ‘Advertisers are baying for blood and we have to

address the issue as soon as possible.’



ITV is spending pounds 587 million on its network programmes this year,

but one broadcaster admitted this week: ‘This is clearly not enough -

either that or the money is not being spent as effectively as possible.’



ITV has already begun squaring up to advertiser worries by tweaking its

summer schedule. Movies have been introduced on Sunday evenings and

ITV’s Network Centre director, Marcus Plantin, is taking a close look at

ITV’s Saturday night performance, with the Chris Tarrant show, Man O’

Man, thought to be under threat.



ITV’s performance is expected to improve through June with its coverage

of the Euro ’96 football championships, and changes are now planned for

the rest of the June schedule.



ITV’s sales chiefs are anxious that the audience decline is rectified as

soon as possible as the 1997 airtime negotiations are due to kick off

early this year. Channel 5 will be talking to advertisers about taking

revenue from ITV.



‘It’s vital that we go into the 1997 talks with a strong proposition and

strong audiences and schedules,’ one ITV insider said. ‘We’re facing

more competition than ever before.’



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