ITV is putting a call out to producers for more entertainment formats. Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival, Kevin Lygo, ITV’s director of TV made: “A call to all producers for more reality, more fun entertainment shows that could be stripped or live.”

Despite some heroic work-arounds with Covid, ITV’s entertainment slate has taken a bashing. Love Island’s winter series is on ice, while I’m A Celebrity has yet to find out if audiences will want to follow the talent into its new home in deepest, darkest Wales.

Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice are finding solutions to the chemistry of a scant audience. “Of course it’s a challenge and we’ll have to see how the audience take to it,” said Lygo.

Big entertainment formats that play as an appointment to view are more critical than ever for ITV. “This is part of our answer to the streamers,” says Lygo. “We have to make these big shows that cut through…. At the moment, the streamers can’t do live, stripped shows, so we’ll be doing more.”

In order to have a strong drama slate this Autumn, shows have been held back from the Spring and Summer schedules. The upcoming slate includes true crime title Des, with David Tennant playing serial killer Dennis Nilsen, and Neil Cross thriller The Sister, starring Russell Tovey, which will be stripped across a week.

ITV halved its output of soaps during Covid, a decision which Lygo says “enabled us to keep soaps alive.” Now filming is back fully, with inevitable changes, and his main concern is to see how the viewers’ habits may have changed during lockdown.

With most drama production only just back up and running and “logistical nightmares” with cast and crew regrouping under Covid protocols, the broadcaster is looking to find the right solutions for prime time 2021 and beyond. “It’s more about next year,” says Lygo. “If we drop half our dramas, it’s going to be a real challenge to fill those slots.”

On the subject of diversity, while ITV has significant ongoing initiatives to address the issue, Lygo pledged “to have more senior commissioners from diverse backgrounds.” He’s keen to have “a regular, big show owned by a diverse presenter….I’m not about to fire Philip and Holly just because they’re white, but whenever a new show is commissioned almost the first question is where’s the diversity in this?”

Pippa Considine

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