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ITV’s efforts to reinvigorate its performance in the international marketplace will be in evidence at Mipcom
Under the new leadership of seasoned U.K. web head Kevin Lygo, who in April jumped ship from Channel 4 to take over as head of ITV Studios, the U.K. terrestrial is determined to beef up its performance on the global stage.
“We want and need to be Europe’s fastest-changing media company,” said new ITV chairman Archie Norman, when the web announced its latest set of financial results in the summer.
Added chief executive Adam Crozier: “ITV has to become a lean business that creates world-class content executed over multiple platforms that can be sold globally.”
The recent U.K. recession taught ITV a tough lesson: It can no longer afford to be wholly dependent on its broadcasting activities.
Following a fundamental review of the entire business, Norman and Crozier, both newcomers to TV, have identified as a key priority the need to “build a strong international content business.”
This is easier said than done. Crozier’s predecessors have all attempted but failed to engineer a lucrative content business. The uncomfortable truth is that while big U.K. indies like All3Media and Shine have made inroads into international markets, for all the talk of “content being king” outside the U.K., ITV remains something of an also-ran.
“For the past decade, ITV has not faced up to the challenges presented by the rise of Internet-based platforms, the continuing growth of pay TV and subscription services and the globalization of content,” said Crozier.
Everybody agrees that creating hits capable of punching their weight alongside global money-spinners like the “CSI” franchise or “Got Talent” will take several years. However, company insiders believe Norman and Crozier are committed to effecting genuine change.
Mipcom regulars Lee Bartlett and Remy Blumenfeld, respectively managing director of global content and formats supremo, have ankled. And alongside Lygo at Mipcom and making her debut for ITV this fall is ex-Disney executive Maria Kyriacou, head of ITV Studios’ distribution arm, Global Entertainment.
Crozier has not surprisingly pinpointed “quality drama” and “top-class formatted entertainment” as genres ITV Studios must excel at if it is to earn real coin overseas.
But first ITV Studios needs to increase the number of shows it makes for the firm’s own U.K. networks. That way the web hopes it can fashion a virtuous circle of successful domestic shows that can then go on to earn big bucks in the global market, either in the finished version or as formats.
“Our international development depends on the strength of our creative pipeline,” Lygo says, “so naturally our focus is to attract the right talent to an environment which nurtures creativity and leads to compelling, innovative programs which have the potential to become international brands.
“Our strategy includes partnerships — we’ll be looking to work with indies who are producing world-class content but don’t have the scale to exploit their ideas internationally.”
Also vital is having the right infrastructure. Having recently opened production offices in France and Spain, ITV operates in seven countries, including the U.S. Crozier wants to expand to 17 outposts in the next five years, with a concomitant boost in local production.
“We have to get into the growth markets,” Crozier said.