Drama report: ITV’s drama boss Polly Hill says she wants great range on the channel

“Audience appetites are changing, and I want to reflect that,” says ITV’s new head of drama Polly Hill. The former BBC drama chief joined ITV a few months ago, and explains that she wants to “bring in huge authorship and drama that feels genuinely fresh and original.”

And that’s all about the writing, she says. “For me, it is about finding something that is fresh and finding a writer who has a story to tell.”

A fan of ITV shows Cold Feet and Victoria as well as US hits The Night Of, Stranger Things and The Walking Dead, Hill peppers her conversation with the word “range”.  Asked what she makes of ITV director of TV Kevin Lygo’s call for “more fun and lightness” in TV drama, she says: “Kevin and I are in total agreement that we want a great range of drama on the channel. If you are going after a big audience, you have to be quite entertaining in the way you do it.” Shows can be really dark, but “you have to take audience with you.” Hill stresses: “What we are not going to do is make something deliberately niche.”

At a time when nearly all drama is serialised, she wonders if an episodic, story of the week type show might work.  “We sometimes have to buck the fashion, go a different way.”

ITV commissions about 150 hours of drama a year. Hill says the biggest challenge she faces is cutting through in a crowded market. “I want extreme variety rather than everything in the middle and a bit similar…I am looking for great range and great differences between dramas.”

Tim Dams

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