ITV may monetize specialist content

Range of subscription propositions being considered

LONDON -- ITV chairman Archie Norman has promised total transformation within 12 months, pledging that by this time next year the commercial free-to-air broadcaster will be "one of Britain's most rapidly changing companies."

Norman, who took over the helm earlier this month, said ITV would have to execute on a range of subscription propositions to bolster the long-term decline in its core free-to-air business, but declined to give specifics.

"I think it is very likely we will use some elements of pay-TV because one of the things that is going to happen is that people consume their television off different platforms, such as Internet-enabled TV, off your laptop, off your iPad as you commute to work -- for some parts of the content that ITV owns, or other people own, others will pay."

Speaking in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Norman said specialist content could be monetized.

"For properties that don't require huge audiences, that are not mass-market but have very specialist content, content owners will say, 'I need to be paid each time somebody watches this.'"

On the face of it, Norman's strategy appeared to differ little from those of his predecessors Michael Grade and Charles Allen, both of whom tried and failed to implement digital businesses.

Grade and Allen talked up the possibility of building revenues from ITV's digital businesses, including the ill-fated Friends Reunited, which was sold at a loss of £150 million ($226 million), and the ITV Digital business, which went bankrupt, costing its shareholders over £1 billion ($1.5 billion).

But despite identifying ITV's core dependency on advertising as a major problem for the business, they failed to come up with a meaningful substitute.

Responsibility for setting ITV's new strategy will rest with incoming chief executive Adam Crozier, who takes the helm at ITV April 26. ITV execs are currently in the middle of a strategy review that is expected to complete in the summer.

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