Industry reacts to ITV's Crozier hiring

Many have not heard of, worked with broadcaster's new CEO

LONDON -- Britain's commercial TV broadcaster ITV has a new boss, someone that many in the industry have never heard of, much less worked with.

ITV's rushed announcement Thursday that it has hired Royal Mail boss Adam Crozier to be CEO of Britain's biggest commercial broadcaster was met with near universal bemusement in senior broadcasting circles.

The former CEO of the Football Association and advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi is better known in financial and government circles than among the media folk of the U.K.'s major broadcasters.

"Blimey," said one senior BBC figure, upon hearing of Crozier's appointment. "Who?" added a senior source at Channel 4. Even shareholders seemed nonplussed, with the appointment failing to move ITV's shareprice.

But ITV chairman Archie Norman, who worked with Crozier at the retailer Asda before hiring him for the ITV post, said Crozier's lack of production and broadcasting expertise is not an issue.

"The creatives within ITV are delighted," Norman told journalists.

"They would have been concerned had we hired some hot shot from the BBC or Channel Four -- although I can't think who that would be -- who would come in and trample all over their flower beds. We don't need that," said Norman, who also described ITV director of television Peter Fincham as "a star broadcaster," making it clear that neither he nor Crozier plan to tread on the network chief's toes.

Clearly picked for turnaround skills, at ITV, Crozier will face management challenges aplenty.

Every ITV CEO in the past decade has pledged they will monetize new media and new platforms and all have failed.

ITV's core revenues still come from its free-to-air broadcasting business, which was disastrously affected by the global downturn.

At the same time the broadcaster has fallen far behind such broadcasters as BSkyB in terms of HD production, and the new wave of 3D programming that will go on stream from the spring.

During his controversial period at the Royal Mail, Crozier was famous for taking unpopular decisions -- such as the closure of hundreds of rural Post Offices and the slashing of thousands of jobs -- often the face of public and government opinion.
At ITV, such radicalism could suggest looking at mergers, or the sell-off of ITV's production wing.

Lorna Tilbian, media analyst at Numis Brokers, said that despite Crozier's lack of media background, he had the skills required for the job.

"He is an ad man from his Saatchi days and advertising is incredibly important for ITV, he knows about sport from his time at the FA, and given the regulatory landscape he also knows his way around government," she said.

"When you think about it, he looks like an inspired choice."
comments powered by Disqus