ITV's Shaps pledges turnaround

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LONDON -- ITV director of programs Simon Shaps has pledged to improve the broadcaster's ratings performance over the next 12 months and said that the appointment of ex-BBC chairman Michael Grade as ITV executive chairman is seen as turning point for the network.

"There's a palpable sense of two things happening together -- there's the appointment of a a really big creative figure at the top of the organization and there's a plan for ITV1 that is already delivering and will deliver for next year," he told the Telegraph newspaper in his first interview since Grade's bombshell appointment (HR 11/28).

Shaps said that ITV's recent signs of recovery will be accelerated under Grade.

"By total viewing share year on year we are committed ... to deliver a much better performance relative to the other terrestrial channels and the BBC than we did in 2006," Shaps said.

ITV's recent fall schedule has seen signs of improvement on Shaps' watch. Strong pieces such as the final chapter in the Helen Mirren drama "Prime Suspect" as well as jungle survival show "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out Here" have pulled in audiences, but full-year advertising revenue for the year is still forecasted to dip 12.4% as ITV1's share of commercial impacts (when one viewer watches one commercial) is expected to be down 9%, according to Merrill Lynch.

Following Grade's appointment, the former BBC chairman said he will keep faith with ITV's existing creative team, suggesting that ITV needed "a period of calm" after the rollercoaster events of the last month.

Grade also hinted that ITV1's core budget will be increased from its current €800 million ($1.6 billion) a year if necessary, and canceled a €250 million ($495 million) share buyback program that could help raise the cash.
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