LONDON — With U.K. ad revenues plunging by as much as 20% this year, British commercial webs are keeping their program budgets and staffing levels under constant scrutiny.
At beleaguered ITV — Blighty’s biggest terrestrial commercial broadcaster — high-end dramas are either being postponed or dropped as the web fights for its life.
For rival commercial broadcasters Channel 4 and Five, the prospects are almost as bleak, as many staff members are getting pinkslipped and costs are cut.
Says Lee Bartlett, managing director of ITV Studios, “ITV has a huge potential for success, but the world has changed these last eight months. We’d be complete idiots if we didn’t realize that ITV has to think in a completely different way. Tough decisions and hard calls have to be made.”
On the two most popular U.K. webs, veteran soaps “Coronation Street” and “EastEnders” continue to score for ITV1 and BBC1, respectively. But ITV1’s heavily hyped new gameshow “Color of Money,” produced by “Weakest Link” shingle 12 Yard (now wholly owned by ITV), looks to be underperforming.
On the plus side, crime drama “Whitechapel,” a contempo take on the Jack the Ripper murders, has given ITV1 a much-needed hit.
However, it remains to be seen if a U.K. version of Universal format “Law & Order,” produced by fashionable drama shingle Kudos for ITV1, will fulfill its early promise.
The winter season demonstrated that the big networks’ flagship entertainment shows, “The X Factor” (ITV1) and “Strictly Come Dancing,” (BBC1) have lost none of their appeal.
“These blockbusters just keep getting bigger,” said Lorraine Heggessey, who runs Talkback Thames, producers of “The X Factor.”
On the acquisitions front, the second season of “Mad Men,” airing on upscale niche web BBC4, has gained enormous praise. Many local webheads have been wondering why the Brits can’t make a show of this caliber.