CANNES — High-flying U.K. broadcaster ITV will continue its run of big investments in creative talent and scripted content, ITV chief executive Adam Crozier told an audience during a media mastermind keynote conversation at Mipcom on Monday.
Producing 6,800 hours of programming in 2015, ITV is now the biggest independent producer of non-scripted television in the U.S., Laurine Garaude, director of the TV division at Mipcom organizer Reed Midem, said in an introduction speech.
ITV has been on a tear of acquisitions in the past two years of production companies in the U.S. and abroad, from John de Mol’s Talpa Media to Brent Montgomery’s Leftfield Pictures to Leslie Greif’s Thinkfactory Media.
Crozier said he had “shareholder support” to continue investing in companies in the U.S. scripted TV sector, “if it was the right company.”
Little wonder. Driving into original production, whether TV dramas or non-scripted alternative TV, Crozier, as he admitted, has driven up ITV revenues to create a broadcast group business which punched $3.9 billion revenues in 2014, of which ITV Studios contributed $1.4 billion, up 9% on 2013.
Fast-talking but soft-spoken, to the point of being near inaudible at least from one part of the auditorium during parts of the keynote, Crozier explained that in its U.S. investments, ITV could bring to the table its experience as a broadcaster – “we instinctively know what broadcasters are looking for” – without competing as a broadcaster in the U.S. market, he argued.
In a wide-ranging conversation with Anna Carugati, group editorial director of World Screen, Crozier suggested that his enthusiasm for content production investment – whether shows or companies – remains as strong as ever. Looking back to his early days at ITV, he remembered that when he first came on board – in April 2010 – the broadcaster had “run out of cash” and, unable to invest, lost key talent. One suggestion was that ITV should jettison its content business and become a pure-play broadcaster, but Crozier refused.
His keynote included a show-reel of ITV Studios productions including a short trailer of its flagship series for 2015 Mipcom, “Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands” featuring a combo of battle scenes and out of wedlock romance at court and fantasy creatures. A 13-seg fantasy series starring Kieran Bew, William Hurt and Joanne Whalley, “Beowulf” features a legendary character with built in brand recognition, Crozier argued.
Crozier also joined Endemol Shine Group CEO Sophie Turner Laing, who delivered a mastermind keynote just before him, in expressing a vote of confidence in the future of TV.
The U.K. ad market is bouncing back in 2015, with growth across all sectors, with advertising anticipating general economic growth, Crozier said.
“Sixty percent to 70% of social media traffic at weekends is about TV. People don’t see their mobile as a second screen. They see it as TV,” Crozier argued.
Currently, “broadcasters are in an incredibly strong position,” Crozier said. “As long as TV companies invest heavily in great new original content, they will be successful. Content will be key.”