ITV may move back into pay TV

Chairman Archie Norman gives first interview

LONDON — The new chairman of battling U.K. terrestrial giant ITV, Archie Norman, has given his clearest indication yet that the web is considering a move back into pay TV.

Asked in an interview with British newspaper the Daily Telegraph if changes likely to take place at the web involve an element of pay, Norman said: “I think it is very likely.”

He added: “As people consume their television off different platforms — Internet-enabled TV or off your iPad — for some of the content that ITV own or others own, people will pay.”

Despite being hit hard by a weak advertising market, Norman’s predecessor, Michael Grade, who stood down at the end of 2009, avoided erecting a pay wall for any of ITV’s channels or programs.

The broadcaster’s last pay venture, ITV Digital, resulted in the loss of more than £1 billion ($1.5 billion) when it was forced to close in 2002 following a crippling battle with BSkyB, the dominant U.K. satcaster.

Norman, in what is his first one-to-one interview since starting at ITV in January, also signalled further economies at the web.

“We can be a much more efficient and successful business. The more successful we become, the more people we can employ and the more money we can put into programs. Is ITV lean and mean? No.”

Under Grade and his chief operating officer, John Cresswell, ITV cut hundreds of jobs and introduced annual savings of up to £245 million ($368 million).

Norman has initiated a wide-ranging strategic review of ITV and its activities, but no decisions will be taken until the arrival of new CEO Adam Crozier, who starts work at the broadcaster April 26.