MEDIA: THE ITV AUTUMN SCHEDULE PRESENTATION - AN EXPERT'S. VIEW. Chris Boothby was encouraged by ITV's autumn schedule, but wished the BBC had a mention

For more years than I care to remember, any ITV programme presentation was an excuse for the cynical buying fraternity to turn up and then moan about the network's lack of imagination in churning out the same old predictable programme schedule.

This autumn's offering has a large percentage of what they term "banker" programming. However, there were encouraging signs that ITV has woken up to the need to show significant improvements in performance.

In its marketing director, Jim Hytner, ITV had someone who publicly admitted that it had made mistakes and who, in his approach to marketing the channel, lends credibility and a belief in building a modern and more sophisticated relationship with viewers.

Then there were Mick Desmond and Clive Jones, the ITV Network Centre heads, promising that Carlton and Granada (and SMG) would support significant levels of programme and marketing investment.

Thirdly, David Liddiment's presentation of the autumn schedule acknowledged that ITV's performance this year was unacceptable and, on the evidence of what we saw, he has made genuine attempts to reinvigorate the schedule.

Blind Date has been revamped with new ideas such as "date or ditch and celebrity dates, which are welcome innovations. Pop Idol becomes Popstars - The Rivals where boy and girl bands will be chosen. Harry Hill's TV Burp, in which he reviews the week's TV, looks promising whereas Home on their Own - a copycat version of the BBC's Changing Rooms - where kids do the designing, does not!

ITV continues its strong football offering with Premiership highlights and Champions League action, and is using ITV2 to show additional matches.

Greater emphasis was put on ITV's movies, and while it is a good schedule (Star Wars, There's Something about Mary, Die Hard II) many will have already been seen on pay-TV or video.

Drama (including Dr Zhivago) also featured significantly and the line-up looks strong. Fairly positive so far - so what were the negatives?

Well, there were the usual excuses for ITV's poor performance, along with the selective statistics to show it was still delivering.

While the drama strand seems strong its small stable of stars are being spread too thinly - with multiple appearances in different programmes/series.

Only careful scheduling will stop the inevitable storyline confusion!

No mention was made of the battle with a vibrant BBC and this was disappointing.

From an advertiser and agency point of view we demand a strong ITV at the expense of the BBC - not by cannibalising from other commercial channels.

So overall, the ITV patient is off the life support machine but is still in intensive care. There is cause for optimism as ITV's management has correctly diagnosed the problem and is giving the right treatment.

- Chris Boothby, the negotiations director at BBJ, was using the ITV presentation as a hiding place to avoid the numerous Spurs-related bets he has failed to pay out on at BBJ.

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