New channels seem to be like buses on Gray’s Inn Road. It had been nine years since ITV launched one and then two arrive in a couple of weeks: the pay-TV Encore and the free-to-air ITVBe.
Featuring lifestyle and reality shows, ITVBe will be the exclusive home of The Only Way Is Essex and will screen the US series Real Housewives. The new channel is expected to launch at the end of this year and draw young female viewers from ITV2. In turn, ITV2 will be repositioned to attract a general young male and female audience with scripted series and "unashamed" entertainment shows.
Chris Locke, the UK trading director at Starcom MediaVest Group, says the launch of ITVBe is partly a response to excess demand by advertisers for ITV audiences.
"More advertisers want it than can buy the airtime and they would prefer to buy ITV2 rather than ITV3 or ITV4," he says. Locke also notes that, while ITV has been reticent about launching digital channels, Sky has raced ahead in this area and with acquisitions.
He estimates that ITVBe could eventually record annual revenues of up to £120 million, given that ITV’s digital channels generated some £340 million in 2013. ITV Encore could attract £60-70 million in revenues, he estimates.
ITV certainly has plenty of programme content to fill the new channels. Daytime shows such as Lorraine and Loose Women could attract new female audiences if shown on ITVBe after the working day from 6pm.
The lifestyle and reality remit remains hugely popular and a big driver of social media, with dual-screening giving advertisers the opportunity to engage people in new ways.
Danny Barnes, the head of investment at PHD, says a range of his clients, includ-ing Mondelez International, Warner Bros and Sainsbury’s, could all be interested in advertising on ITVBe.
However, there is a counter argument that ITVBe is another way to repackage the same content that has previously run on ITV2, begging the question: why?
So, is ITVBe a welcome addition?