Editorial: Give audiences quality TV and they will come

If last weekend is any indication, ITV has earned the right to join Mark Twain in claiming that reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

The final of Britain's Got Talent almost emptied the streets as people clustered around their TV screens. And this just hours after the broadcaster was able to restore some lost lustre to the FA Cup with an attractive "North versus South" final between Everton and Chelsea.

For one fleeting day, ITV offered a tantalising glimpse of what it used to be like when audiences were still mass and TV could deliver them to advertisers week in, week out.

Looking back from a time when media has never been so complex and fragmented, it's hard to imagine how it once was. It almost beggars belief that ATV's Sunday Night At The London Palladium, with its mix of variety, gameshows and big showbiz names topping the bill, could pull in 28 million viewers a week - an audience share of 84 per cent.

It's a sad contrast to the limping, wounded and revenue-haemorrhaging animal that commercial broadcasting is today. The figures tell their own grim story: ITV1's projected revenue forecast for this year is down £219 million, a drop of 17.3 per cent. There are similar tales of woe at Channel 4 and Five, which are expected to see revenue falls of 16.4 per cent and 28.2 per cent respectively.

These are truly horrendous predictions but well believable given how the credit crunch is driving advertisers to explore alternative means of communication, some of it free.

And yet, despite its enfeebled state, commercial TV still has a pulse. The long-predicted death of the 30-second spot has yet to come about and you'd be hard-pressed to find a major client who doesn't still regard TV as an essential part of their marketing mix.

The trick is for ITV to create more of the "must see" programming that will attract them. Last weekend showed there's life in the old dog yet.

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