ITV invests $400 million in content

Broadcaster hunts down indie producers

ITV, Blighty’s biggest private terrestrial web, is setting up a £198 million ($400 million) war chest to invest in production companies in the U.S. and worldwide to beef up its content business.

The strategy, outlined Wednesday by executive chairman Michael Grade, aims to double the broadcaster’s content revenue from its present $1.2 billion to $2.4 billion by 2012.

“Reshaped, revitalized and redeployed, ITV’s unrivaled assets will ensure that it is once again a top- and bottom-line growth business,” Grade said. “The old ITV competed in a £6 billion ($12.2 billion) market — the U.K. television advertising and program market. The new ITV will be operating in a market worth double that.”

Under new ITV topper Dawn Airey, who joins the web next month as director of global content, the outfit hopes to increase revenues overseas by accelerating the development and production of long-running drama skeins, factual and entertainment formats and comedy.

As part of this effort, Airey will have up to $400 million raised from selling noncore assets to spend on shingles in markets where ITV already operates, including the U.S., where ITV owns Los Angeles-based Granada America.

The success of formats like “Hell’s Kitchen,” soon to return for a fourth season on Fox, indicates that ITV can generate a lot more coin overseas, claimed Grade.

A streamlined content arm headed by Airey, who will oversee ITV Prods., aims to raise the broadcaster’s game as a producer both in the U.K. — where Grade acknowledged there had been too much “rights leakage” to indies — and overseas.

ITV also outlined plans for youth-skewed digital web ITV2, which chief operating officer John Cresswell aims to position as Blighty’s fifth most popular network in the 16-34 demographic, overtaking terrestrial rival Five.

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