Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Will ITV Get Online ?

ITV know that they have to do more online, but their past does not bode well for the new management team taking over. But in my opinion the past failures were due to poor execution or ambition at the highest level, not because of bad ideas.

Imagine combining Friends Reunited with a programme like the BBC's Who Do You Think You Are ? ITV have been notoriously bad at leveraging their programme 'brands' as the BBC has done with Top Gear or Five with The Gadget Show. Indeed, ITV's old guard had a mortal fear of any kind of segmentation or narrowcasting. By the time ITV used on air slots to plug FR it was way too late and the site was in nearly terminal decline.

Another problem is that whereas TV remains parochial and geographically constrained, the internet works best if it is international, this is fine for a huge market like China or the US, but is a serious disadvantage in a relatively small market like the UK.

Then there was ITV Local, a quite brilliant idea by Lindsay Charlton and his team that was probably over-invested in, but was quite capable of generating modest profits in the short term and would have built a powerhouse for the future. There was, perhaps, over emphasis on video content, and I have to take part of the blame for that. But it was sad that ITV lost its bottle on this initiative - it is something that they might do well to revisit, especially with the BBC disadvantaged in the area of local news.

ITV.com meanwhile was the blind leading the blind. Dreadful technical implementation (when there were plenty of great off the shelf platforms available) hampered its development - not least the choice of Silverlight. The situation seems to have improved tremendously, but there is still a lot to do, and the surface of the commercial model for this service has barely been scratched.

So, a new era dawns and we have to see if an ex-grocer and an ex-postman can make a better hand of this internet TV thing than those TV execs did.