ITV pins hopes on global operation

Iacono outlines ambitious plans at Mip confab

LONDON — As Blighty commercial broadcaster ITV’s stock price continues to slide, there is growing pressure on its restructured international operation to perform.

At this month’s Mip TV sales mart in Cannes, Peter Iacono, the new head of ITV Worldwide, outlined ambitious plans to launch international channels.

Iacono is one of three U.S. toppers, each with a Hollywood studio background, hired by ITV Global Content head Dawn Airey, who herself joined ITV in October, to help double revenues to $2.4 billion by 2012.

The other new executives are Paul Buccieri, CEO of Granada America, and Lee Bartlett, chief operating officer of Global Content, each hired from different parts of the Fox empire.

With more than 15 years experience across the Atlantic, Iacono joined ITV two months ago from Sony Motion Pictures Group, where he was acting prexy of international features.

Is there any real difference in working in the U.K.? “The language and the nuance are a little bit different,” he observes. “But the underlying tone is just as aggressive. If anything, there is more pressure here.”

Iacono has wasted no time in reshaping ITV’s distribution activities, with new teams formed to run TV licensing, home entertainment and merchandising.

“We are looking at how we can maximize the potential of every program and asset that we have,” he adds.

On the international channels front, where ITV barely has its foot in the door compared with BBC Worldwide, which runs channels across the globe including cable web BBC America, Iacono is starting virtually from scratch.

“We’d love to be in the network business outside the U.K,” Iacono explains. “By this I mean traditional linear channels plus nonlinear networks like IPTV. ITV has two great skills sets, broadcast and production, which we can harness.

“We need to get a few successes under our belt, and then we’ll see about the U.S.”

There is a lot of hard work to be done.

Reality skein “Hell’s Kitchen,” a hit for Fox Stateside, is a $100 million global franchise for ITV, but more successes on this scale are required.

As Airey told a U.K. industry talking shop last month: “If I can deliver a new ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ every year, then ITV is well on the road to recovery. That’s easy to say but difficult to do.

“We haven’t been good at brand extensions to date. … BBC Worldwide is an absolute powerhouse and I want to give them a run for their money.”

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