×

ITV: Peter Fincham Remains Hooked on Broadcast Model

Keeping a traditional TV network healthy has never been easy. In an Internet-driven era, the challenge is greater still. But Peter Fincham, ITV’s director of television, is convinced that despite growing competition and new viewing habits, audiences and advertisers remain hooked on the broadcast model.

“In a changing world, there is still the phenomenon of the big mainstream channel delivering high-quality programs across a broad range of genres,” Fincham says.

He is the webhead responsible for greenlighting “Downton Abbey” and “Broadchurch” for ITV, which remains the U.K.’s most popular commercial terrestrial channel.

Two years ago, Fincham helped ITV increase its audience share for the first time in 23 years, winning a clutch of BAFTAs in the process.

In 2014, ITV’s “Cilla,” a biopic of the British singer Cilla Black, set in the early 1960s, was the most-watched new drama on any British channel, winning an average audience of 8.3 million viewers and a 31% audience share.

Fincham’s ITV portfolio also boasts two of Blighty’s most successful and enduring soaps, “Coronation Street” and “Emmerdale,” entertainment juggernauts “The X Factor” and “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!,” plus an award-winning news show.

“A big part of this job is having the right talent on board,” stresses Fincham, “whether it’s Ant and Dec (‘Saturday Night Takeaway’), Julian Fellowes (‘Downton Abbey’), Chris Chibnall (‘Broadchurch’) or Simon Cowell (‘The X Factor’).”

Prior to joining ITV in 2008, Fincham was controller of BBC1, the pubcaster’s flagship service and main rival. Previously he had enjoyed a successful and lucrative career in independent production as CEO of high-profile British shingle, Talkback Thames.

“Running Britain’s two biggest channels, and all the experience that provides, gives you a bit of perspective,” he says. “The technology changes, viewing habits change but audiences still want the shared viewing experience. Some parts of the audience may want to binge watch on boxed sets — and we can provide that too via Sky — but linear TV is turning out to be incredibly resilient.”

He notes that the Internet was supposed to destroy mainstream TV, but he thinks that if anything, it’s enhanced it.

As director of television, Fincham is responsible for spending a budget of around $1.49 billion.

He now runs seven channels. Last year, ITV bowed two networks, female-skewed ITVBe and its first pay net, ITV Encore.

The lion’s share of the money goes on core network, ITV, which remains the company’s main business.

It’s estimated that around half of ITV’s revenue still depends on the health of the flagship channel.

“Advertising spots are bought across ITV’s channel portfolio,” says analyst Michael Underhill at Enders Analysis. “But it’s still the main channel that delivers the big audiences. If you want to reach 10 million people you’ve got to be on ITV. … The finale of ‘X Factor’ is Britain’s Super Bowl.”

This makes Fincham’s role crucial to ITV’s overall well-being.

He was already onboard when the new team of CEO Adam Crozier and chairman Archie Norman got to work in 2010.

Coincidentally, this was the year when “Downton Abbey” made its U.K. debut and helped spark ITV’s renaissance.

ITV would have been happier — and richer — had the global phenomenon been produced inhouse, but “Downton Abbey” is made by Carnival, owned by NBCUniversal, the ultimate beneficiary of the show’s success.

The series, however, helped rebuild ITV’s confidence and enabled Fincham to raise his game across a range of shows, notably drama.

The breadth of ITV’s drama can sometimes be overlooked.

“Mr. Selfridge,” made inhouse, has proven a strong Sunday night show, while Fincham has also commissioned more ambitious fare such as the recent two-parter “The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies,” written by Peter Morgan and helmed by Roger Michell.

Not everything on Fincham’s horizon is sunny. In the past year ITV’s ratings have faltered (“It’s true that ‘X Factor’ doesn’t do as well as it once did, but everyone in TV is looking for the next, big entertainment show,” he says); however, he takes the long view and is confident that in the months ahead audience figures will improve.

He highlights new and returning dramas to lift ratings, including “Jekyll & Hyde,” “Home Fires” and “The Forgotten,” and the return of “Doc Martin,” “Prey,” “Vera” and, of course, “Downton Abbey.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • TV News Roundup: Netflix Drops Trailer

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Drops Trailer for Ryan Murphy's 'The Politician' (Watch)

    In today’s TV news roundup, Netflix has drops the first trailer for “The Politician,” and “Killing Eve” adds two to its cast for season 3.  CASTING Harriet Walter and Danny Sapani, both alums of “The Crown,” are set to join the cast of “Killing Eve” for its third season. British writer Suzanne Heathcote, whose past credits include [...]

  • Lady Gaga

    Variety Earns 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Award Nominations

    Variety has received 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie award nominations for its coverage of the entertainment industry over the past year. The awards gala, which will take place at The Hilton Midtown in New York City on Oct. 30, celebrates publications that have demonstrated impressive investigative journalism, in addition to thoughtful digital and print design. [...]

  • Disneyland

    Disney Shares Slip Amid Reported Whistleblower Allegations of Inflated Revenue

    Sandra Kuba, a former senior financial analyst for Disney’s revenue operations unit, says she has filed a series of whistleblower tips with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, alleging that the entertainment conglomerate repeatedly and systematically overstated its revenue for years, according to a MarketWatch report, by as much as $6 billion in a single [...]

  • Bob Bakish Joe Ianniello

    ViacomCBS Sets Board Members; Bob Bakish, Joe Ianniello New Deals Disclosed

    ViacomCBS has unveiled the 13 members of its board of directors and details of new employment contracts for president-CEO Bob Bakish and CBS chairman-CEO Joe Ianniello. The disclosure came Monday in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, six days after Viacom and CBS at long last set an all-stock merger agreement valued at [...]

  • Carrie Underwood, left, and Reba McEntire

    CMAs Make Hosting Change: Brad Paisley Exits, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire Are In

    The CMA Awards have had the most consistent hosting situation of any music awards show in television, but 11 years after installing Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood as the reliable faces of the telecast, even ABC and the Country Music Association have decided it’s time for a switch. Come Nov. 13, Underwood will return for [...]

  • Ava Max iHeartRadio Wango Tango, Portraits,

    Megan Thee Stallion, CNCO, Ava Max to Perform at VMAs Pre-show

    CNCO, Megan Thee Stallion and “Sweet but Psycho” singer Ava Max (pictured) have been added to the performer lineup at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. The three will take the stage during the VMAs’ red carpet pre-show, hosted by Terrence J and Nessa. Zara Larsson will join the two hosts as a special correspondent. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content