ITV CEO Adam Crozier has stressed that the network’s revival across broadcasting, online, pay and interactive - and internationally - has been ultimately down to one thing – the richness of the programmes.
Speaking at an RTS early evening event held on 27 June at the Hospital Club in London's Covent Garden, Crozier gave an upbeat assessment of the company’s present performance.
Three years into ITV’s five-year transformation plan Crozier said it is vital that staff understand and are engaged with the strategy being implemented at the once-failing station.
Around 50% of employees at the broadcaster have joined since Crozier took over in 2010.
Thanks to high-end drama such as Downton Abbey, Mr Selfridge and Broadchurch, ITV’s main channel is increasing its share of audiences and advertising.
“Three years ago, just before I joined, there was a queue of people who couldn’t wait to tell me that social media and the internet would kill TV,” Crozier recalled.
“The reality is that linear television is actually stronger today than it was in 2009 and television advertising has a greater share of the advertising cake than it did in 2009.”
He claimed ITV is delivering growth across all sectors of the business.
“Everyone starts by focusing on the financial picture, and yes it’s great,” said the CEO. “But you have to keep on reminding people that it’s all about the programmes.
“If the programmes are great, everything else is fantastically easy.”
Profits have climbed by 250% to £520m, while earnings per share have quadrupled over 3 years.
Some £600m of debt has been eradicated.
“We have cash and we are investing, growing and rewarding shareholders all at the same time,” Crozier emphasised.
The key to the change in fortunes of the UK’s biggest commercial terrestrial broadcaster has been down to investing in high-quality shows across all genres.
For ITV to continue on its upward trajectory there must be no let-up in the investment in content.
He added: “To be fair to the people that came before, when ITV was in financial trouble not surprisingly it had to cut a lot of the things.”
The new approach has been evident, too, in what Crozier described as a “more creative” approach to selling airtime.
He said: “I think ITV was known for having a bit of a baseball-bat approach to sales negotiation. It is much more creative now.”
Crozier admitted that in areas such as online delivery, ITV still has a lot of work to do.
He said: “In online, pay and interactive we started off with the most horrific technology.
“We did publicly talk about how bad it was, but I promise you we didn’t tell you quite how bad it was.”
Applications such as the ITVPlayer have been much improved but Crozier indicated further work would be needed.
“We improved the distribution of ITVPlayer and the design of it… [but] it’s not where we want it to be – but it’s way much better.”
Crozier highlighted ITV’s recent buying spree during which the network has acquired majority stakes in seven independent producers over the past 18 months on both sides of the Atlantic.
He said: “They are all high-quality operations that we think are at the right stage of their development where there’s much, much more to come - particularly if we invest in the businesses, which we will do.”
A full report of the event will appear in the July/August edition of Television.
Report by Steve Clarke
Pictures by Richard Kendal