Warning: This post was published more than 8 years ago.
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ITV’s financial woes have rarely been out of the media trade rags recently, and the story reached new levels of idiocy this week when the Express claimed the broadcaster was considering a move to a subscription model.
As far as I can see, ITV’s problems could be significantly eased by more successful exploitation of its sucessful brands. While the ITV brand itself doesn’t have nearly the kudos of that of its public sector rival, it does have some huge brands.
Take The X Factor. It is a multimedia juggernaut, winning viewers, selling newspapers and gaining the general attention of the populace for weeks on end – now, pretty much, year round. Yet ITV only really exploit this format to the max on TV. Looking at the recent history of the format, every iteration has included more democratisation – from Popstars, with no interaction, through Pop Idol, which introduced the public vote, through to The X Factor, which is really the first of the shows to maximise the participatory process with extended auditions.
Further democratising the format could bring in huge revenues, slash costs, and make a more engaging show: Simply take the format online in an engaging way.
ITV are notoriously crap at web-based engagement, so let them keep their grubby mits at arms length from the project. Democratise it through holding auditions on a specially commisioned YouTube channel. Have people upload their auditions, let the online public vote, and invite the top 500 or so to traditional auditions.
This change in format allows a whole load of advertising to surround the videos, it works in the favour of newspapers and magazines who can boost their own web profits by pointing people from their publication to their publication’s website for links to the videos (or even embedded versions, HeatWorld style), and it engaged the largely web-enabled target audience.
It introduces whole new story arcs – see Peter, he did an excellent Bohemian Rhapsody on YouTube, but at the auditions it becomes clear that’s all he can sing – see Jane, she wasn’t rated highly by the online viewers, who couldn’t see past the poor production of her video, but the judges see the ‘next big thing’ in her – et cetera, ad infinitum.
Once the audience is built for the audition stage, maintaining it for the later stages of the competition should be childsplay for the ‘media masterminds’ on The X Factor team.
Philip Schofield’s 100k+ Twitter followers show that there’s an appetite for real exclusive extended content beyond the ITV hits, even when backed up by a fairly standard iViva site, barely better in design than ITV’s own pisspor Dancing on Ice site.
I don’t watch Coronation Street, but if I did I’m fairly sure the last place I’d look for exclusives on the next big story line is the official site – not least as I count seven flashy adverts on the homepage, and am prompted to install Microsoft Silverlight for anything much to happen.
Surely there’s a market for a magazine and website combo, again controlled at arms length from ITV, but in which ITV could have a stake? With the popularity of all the soaps, the ‘unofficial’ Soap Mags which sell like hot cakes could surely never compete with a title part-owned at ITV which is being drip-fed bona fide confirmed hints of storylines to come? Combined with genuine interest back-stage exclusives, there surely must be a market? Especially if ITV were arms-length enough that the soaps could be treated with the slight ‘guilty secret’ irreverance they deserve.
Now, I realise, it’s commonplace to suggest that in these financially hard times ITV needs to consolidate its core services, whereas I’m suggesting diversification. I’ll leave it to the good readership of sjhoward.co.uk to explain to me why my against-the-grain idea is idiocy, rather than a brilliant solution.