Variety can reveal an August to September broadcast is on the cards for the program, as prospects for “Love Island’s” traditional June-July outing seem virtually impossible given the production lockdown driven by the global pandemic.
Airing on digital channel ITV2, “Love Island” is one of the most watched programs across the U.K. and is stripped across the broadcaster seven days a week from 9-10 p.m over two months. The ITV Studios-produced show — which finds young coupled-up singles trying to find love and outlast one another — brings in huge advertising dollars for the broadcaster, which pulled in an extra £8 million ($10 million) in commercial partnerships alone for the 2019 edition.
Production on “Love Island,” which is shot in a villa on the Spanish Balearic island of Mallorca, is believed to normally begin around mid-May, with an extensive crew bedding in at a remote location close to the villa, which is rigged with cameras.
While it’s believed the broadcaster has yet to sign off on plans for the show, a number of contingency plans are in the works for the U.K. edition, which will undoubtedly face significant challenges with international travel, given contestants are constantly joining and exiting the program, with producers shuttling cast back and forth each week from the U.K. to Mallorca. Spain, too, has been particularly hard hit by coronavirus with more than 19,000 deaths to date.
As a result, it’s believed the 2020 summer edition could shoot somewhere in the U.K. rather than go overseas, with a similar scenario being considered for ITV reality hit “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!” which shoots in Australia.
ITV brass, however, are keen to ensure the show goes ahead despite the circumstances and it’s understood casting is actively underway. Also worth noting is the show’s large bank of potential cast members from previous editions. ITV rolled out a winter edition of the show in January, which filmed in South Africa, and it could be that overflow cast from that program could be considered for the summer show.
One senior entertainment executive tells Variety that the fate of this year’s edition could ultimately be “in the hands of insurance companies.”
“At what point can you ask people who have never met to couple up and get into bed together without having a vaccine or proof you have immunity (from coronavirus)?” warns the executive.
“There are going to be myriad, complex conversations going on. It’s all down to whether you get insurance. Can you insure the show, and will insurance firms say, ‘We need to see that everyone is vaccinated or immunized beforehand.'”
In the U.S., where “Love Island” bowed on CBS last summer, the show was due to air in May, and has since been delayed.
According to ITV’s annual report for 2019, last summer’s edition of “Love Island” was its best performing series to date, averaging 4.3 million viewers (an audience share of 19%), which increased to 5.6 million including non-TV viewing. The show also drew the largest 16-34 demo across all channels, averaging 2.2 million viewers with a 55% share of that age group.
In theory, ITV is especially reliant on “Love Island” going ahead this year considering it has already forecast a major advertising hit from coronavirus. The broadcaster was among the first domestic networks to reveal in early March an impact from travel advertising deferments.
Late last month, ITV cut its programming budget by $116 million. In a trading update, ITV said at the time: “This reflects savings from sport including the postponement of Euro 2020, the late delivery of commissioned programming and active decisions to reduce our spend.”
Despite being the U.K.’s most popular reality show, “Love Island” has faced mounting backlash in recent years, following a spate of suicides by former contestants that forced the broadcaster to recalibrate its duty of care guidelines and provide more support for on and off-screen roles.
A crushing blow came mid-February, when host Caroline Flack committed suicide — an event that shocked the U.K., where Flack was one of the most high-profile, beloved presenters on television.
Before she died, Flack had been due to go on trial for allegedly assaulting her boyfriend, and had been subject to a raft of commentary and scrutiny in the press and on social media. Her death prompted a number of petitions calling for “Caroline’s Law,” which would make media harassment and bullying a criminal offence, not dissimilar to corporate manslaughter.
Once again, ITV faced calls from the public for the show’s cancellation; however, although CEO Carolyn McCall acknowledged in March that Flack’s death was “unbelievably tragic,” she has stood by the show and insisted the broadcaster is working on a “world-class” duty of care strategy for those involved.
Indeed, ITV is believed to have released guidance to in-house producers Thursday, cautioning that the public will be increasingly anxious after lockdown, which producers will need to be cognizant of in pre-production and when production eventually restarts.