Battle of the Necrophiles

Not the next big thingWell, well, well. The plot thickens . You have to admire the cojones on the Newscorp crew. After the closing bell, they put nearly £1bn on the table to complicate and effectively block Virgin Media (NTL etc) from picking up the attractive corpse of ITV. There is a mass of backroom, smoky goings on here (and the makings of a great documentary) with jilted investment funds, the watchful eye of RTL and all sorts going on. Sky’s investors have every reason to be a little perturbed by the fact that a massive chunk of change has just been spent on getting an unmanageable asset. A swap for Channel 5 with RTL would be an interesting and strategic outcome, as there is a lot of evidence that pay TV is now saturated and the growth is all in free to air. What Virgin could do with ITV would be better for consumers of media and the competitive landscape in general – OFCOM should find this outcome preferable. Nobody else can challenge the Murdoch monolith.

For me, ITV really never has gotten over the Greg Dyke inspired wholesale theft of its MOTR audience by BBC1 (and increasingly BBC2 as all the innovative stuff is ghettoised to digital). There just is not that much mediocrity to go round and ITV feels out of place. For every Footballer’s Wives there are countless flashes in the pan (from the risible EastEnder as SAS farce Ultimate Force to vehicles for Suranne Jones’ chest) which do nothing to build and retain desirable audiences for advertisers. There is this sort of chain pub lunch feel to ITV’s content that is hard for me to articulate. I can look at a logline for a show, a cast list or even catch a glimpse of footage and I always know its ITV. I suppose the best way to say it is that it always disappoints and never surprises.

Rule 1ish of being in a competitive, fragmenting market is give people some reason to have an opinion about your product. You will offend some, attract others but they all will be talking. With so many talented people in content creation worldwide there is no excuse for serving up the TV equivalent of Harvester cheeseburgers with freezerburnt chips night after night.

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