‘Millionaire’ Xmas

ITV 'Wants' auds for Christmas Day

LONDON — The ITV net is hoping to reach its annual audience share target by skedding a triple bill of its smash hit “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” on Christmas Day.

ITV normally concedes the Christmas battleground to the BBC but this year the commercial web is pulling out all the stops to raise its current 38.9% primetime share to the magic 39% mark. That, perhaps not coincidentally, would also trigger bonuses all around for ITV senior execs.

Bonus rounds

ITV chief executive Richard Eyre, who is leaving to head Pearson Television, would receive a $160,000 bonus, while David Liddiment, ITV head of programming, is in line for $120,000.

Christmas is traditionally the one time of the year that BBC1, the pubcaster’s flagship channel, outperforms ITV, typically with programming such as holiday specials of popular shows.

Unlike the BBC, the advertising-driven ITV usually holds off on splurging during the holidays, and has relied on fare like old James Bond films. ITV’s advertisers are chiefly concerned with the run-up to Christmas, not the sales that come afterward.

Eve arrival

In addition to the Saturday triple run, there will be an episode of “Millionaire” on Christmas Eve to be followed by a behind-the-scenes look at the show.

ITV’s primetime share is currently 10% higher than BBC1, in large part due to the success of “Millionaire.” The gap last year was 6.5%.

The network’s resurgence has proved attractive to traditional ITV advertisers. Ad sales are expected to hit $3 billion for 1999, $160 million more than anticipated and up 11% on 1998.

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