Carolyn McCall, ceo of ITV kicked off Day Two of the RTS Cambridge Convention, bringing the audience up to date with ITVX and talking about ITV Studios and the opportunity for the reality genre on the channel.

She addressed the failure of ad revenues to return, so far,  in the second half of 2023, something that will “drag down” the broadcaster’s results.

The session focused on the success of ITVX. When ITV announced the plans to supercharge the streaming service, in March 2022, its share price plunged. But its performance since launch at the end of last year, has proved the strategy right. “The investors are hugely supportive of the strategy,” said McCall.

It’s now up to over two million streams. “What that means is loads of people are downloading loads of stuff,” said McCall. There are 12.5 m monthly active users which has reinforced the wisdom of investing in content. The online offering has gone from around two and a half, or three thousand hours, to around nineteen thousand hours. And if you add in Britbox, that’s 26 thousand hours.

ITV X made a big investment in content, especially into major drama, and that’s paid off. “People do come in for premieres” says McCall. There’s a 93 per cent increase in light viewers coming in for one programme and finding more.  For premieres, it’s around 86 %  staying, browsing and watching more

For younger audiences, beyond Love Island there’s now drama, US acquisitions and more choice.

Talking about ITV Studios, she said: “We’ve made it very clear we want to expand our studios business.” This is about organic growth, as well as buying production companies. “We’ve backed talent ant that’s worked really well,” she said, citing the six or seven instances of leading drama executives setting up their own labels within ITV, including Nicola Shindler and Dominic Treadwell-Collins.

With Big Brother back soon, she said that the reality space was still an opportunity. ITV is also working on The Real Squid Games with Stephen Lambert and ITV Studios label The Garden for Netflix and Love Island Games from ITV Entertainment, for Peacock. “You say the reality space is crowded, I don’t think it is,” she said. “These are going to work. ”

Referring to the broad demographic that watches reality, she said “it isn’t a genre just for young people.” The 65 per cent of Love Island is under 30 is quite unusual. “Most reality shows will get quite a spread.”Love island in the States does best with a demographic of middle aged women. “Big Brother has to appeal to a broader demographic,” she said.

A big fan of Davina McCall (no relation), she praised new ITV show My Mum Your Dad. “It’s one of the nicest, lovely shows …unexpected and she’s wonderful, how she draws people out. It’s a really warm show.”

Turning to AI, she said that ITV is experimenting, trialling and testing AI in production. “We’d like to be able to give all creatives in our business the tools to play with.” But she does not aspire to lead in AI. “For me it’s getting everyone used to it, not panicking about it.”


Photo credit: Richard Kendal/RTS

Pippa Considine

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