What is ITV?

Independent Television (ITV) was the UK’s first commercial television network.

In addition to the flagship terrestrial service ITV1, the ITV network includes ITV2, ITV3, ITV4 and CiTV the first dedicated commercial children’s channel.

ITV operates 15 individual regional licences, each reflecting regional variations in consumer demand and identity. Eleven of the ITV licences are owned by ITV plc with the remainder being owned by STV (Scotland – two licences), Channel TV (Channel Islands) and Ulster TV (Northern Ireland).


ITV first began broadcasting in the London area on Channel 3 in 1955. By 1973 there were 15 separate Channel 3 regional broadcasting licences.

The ITV network has historically been owned by a number of individual companies, each administering services for Channel 3 on a regional basis.

The first ‘ITV’ franchises were awarded in 1954 by the Independent Television Authority (ITA), in London, the Midlands and the North of England. The Broadcasting Act 1990 led to a major re-organisation of the networks’ licence obligations and the bidding process, leading to the demise of many well-known Channel 3 licence holders, such as Thames Television.

The Act also lifted the restriction on companies holding multiple franchises. By 2003, all the franchises, except those in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands, were held by two companies: Carlton and Granada.

The two companies attempted to merge twice during the 1990s, but were frustrated by legal provisions banning any one ITV company from controlling more than 15 per cent of the total terrestrial TV audience or holding more than one London franchise.

This block was removed by the Communications Act 2003, and in October 2003, the Government signalled that it would not block a merger. Granada and Carlton plc merged to form ITVplc and on February 2 2004, shares in ITV plc began trading.

Since the 1990 Act, the ITV network has expanded beyond the terrestrial Channel Three slot: ITV2 was launched in 1998, followed by ITV3 in 2004, ITV4 in 2005 and CiTV in 2006.

ITV’s broadband service, was launched in 2007 and offered live streaming of ITV channels, a 30 day catch-up service, archive material, news, games and exclusive content. Former executive chairman Michael Grade described as “a major step in ITV’s development”, providing “a compelling free service to consumers and dynamic online opportunities for our advertisers.”

In January 2010 former Tory MP Archie Norman was appointed as the new ITV chairman and in April of that year, Adam Crozier, previously chief executive at Royal Mail Group, became chief executive at ITV.


The consolidation of ITV into a single company does not contravene the basic principle of the network’s founding, that there should be no monopoly in commercial broadcasting, because a vast range of other commercial channels in competition to ITV and the BBC have emerged since the 1980s.

Nonetheless, there were many debates during the passage of the Communications Act expressing concern that a Carlton-Granada merger would reduce region-specific output and lead to the concentration of TV production resources in London, at the expense of the regions.

It was also feared that the removal of ownership restrictions would lead to British domestic channels being bought up by foreign companies less concerned with quality content than making money. Therefore, ITV remains subject to extensive ‘public service’ requirements.

However, ITV has increasingly been accused of ‘dumbing down’ its content. Until the advent of satellite TV, ITV and the BBC competed on relatively even terms for ‘serious’ news and documentary audiences, but in the 1990s, ITV’s prime time included less of this material. The decision to shift the News at Ten to a later slot in 2000, reversed in January 2001, was seen as particularly symptomatic because it was justified on the grounds of allowing the channel to show more films.

The collapse of the ITV Digital network in 2002 was highly controversial. As a result of its failure, ITV was left facing crippling debts both from the huge launch costs and from the associated advertising blitz to try and rescue the project.

A major fallout of the collapse was the consequent loss of sponsorship deals for the Nationwide Football League. With ITV Digital still owing, and unable to honour, around £178.5 million to the Football League, many clubs were left facing bankruptcy.

Following his appointment in April 2010, new chief executive Adam Crozier warned that ITV would need to “change substantially” if it was to improve its economic performance. He said the organisation had for the past decade failed to face up to new challenges such as the rise in internet-based platforms, continued growth in pay TV and subscription services and the globalization of content.

Subsequently a five year Transformation Plan was announced in August 2010 which would focus on four priorities: Create a new lean, creatively dynamic and fit for purpose organisation; Maximise audience and revenue share from existing free-to-air broadcast business; Drive new revenue streams by exploiting content across multiple platforms, free and pay; and Build a strong international content business.


Net advertising revenue up 18% versus a market up 15% EBITA before exceptional items increased to £165 million (2009: £46 million)
Decisive action on cash and costs reduced net debt significantly to £437 million from £612 million at year end
Adjusted earnings per share increased to 2.2p (2009: loss of 0.2p)
ITV NAR forecast to be up around 15% in Q3 2010
Increasingly tough comparatives and economic uncertainty give us a cautious outlook for Q4 and 2011
Recovery in financial performance but underlying structural challenges remain
ITV today announces its five year Transformation Plan
Move into pay television with agreement to make ITV2 HD, ITV3 HD and ITV4 HD channels on Sky
Announced launch of ITV1+1 in Q1 2011

Source: ITV plc Interim Results – August 2010


“I was very pleased to join ITV in April this year at such an exciting and pivotal time for the company. ITV has reported a significantly improved financial performance for the first half of 2010. However, this improvement does not disguise the underlying challenges we face. The challenges are not new but fundamental change is now imperative and delivery is key.”

ITV chief executive Adam Crozier – August 2010

“Under Adam Crozier’s leadership ITV has already established a totally realistic understanding of the challenges, a far reaching plan for transformation and a very strong top team that can deliver.”

ITV chairman Archie Norman – August 2010