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U.S. President Donald Trump and Piers Morgan have “this bizarre bromance that is just weird,” ITV director of television Kevin Lygo said Thursday.
Morgan’s recent exclusive U.K. TV interview with President Trump “rated quite badly,” but at least was “noisy,” he told the Edinburgh TV Festival, without providing specific data. He also shared that before the interview, the two men had a very friendly exchange. Lygo said Trump asked Morgan how his hair looked. “I thought: Answer that one, Piers!” Lygo quipped.
Morgan’s was the only TV interview with Trump during the U.S. president’s controversial four-day trip to the U.K. in July, and Lygo said ITV would have never scored it without Morgan and his connection with Trump.
Discussing Morgan and his role on morning show Good Morning Britain, Lygo said: “Piers is obviously horrendous. No, we love Piers.” He added: “I have got a soft spot for Piers.”
With bland programming failing, Lygo said Morgan helps provide a show that is “loud and noisy and interesting and awake.” And he has allowed co-host Susanna Reid “to become a saint,” he added before concluding: “The ratings are growing all the time, and everyone knows it’s on.”
In an effort to create more noise on ITV, Lygo on Thursday also highlighted the network’s efforts to keep long-running hit The X Factor fresh. The show’s upcoming 15th season will include pop star Robbie Williams as a new judge.
“It’s an incredibly important show for us” that tends to dominate weekends in the fall, he said. “It’s really feeling fun,” he said about the new season, lauding the chemistry between Williams and X Factor creator and star Simon Cowell.
Lygo was asked about the fact that Cowell just got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In response, he quipped that it was located between the stars for Donald Trump and Kevin Spacey. The recently disgraced Spacey, who was accused last year of sexual harassment and assault, gave the Edinburgh TV Festival keynote lecture in 2013.
Lygo was later joined by ITV director of digital Paul Mortimer, who was immediately asked about the success of reality show Love Island and how it has driven usage of on-demand platform ITV Hub. “It seems to have hit a sweet spot,” Mortimer said when asked about the reasons for its success. “It’s fun entertainment” that is “produced fantastically well.”
Lygo, who was named to his post in early 2016, added that the success of the show “shuts up those who say young people don’t watch TV.”
Love Island recently wrapped up its fourth season on ITV2 with record ratings, with 3.6 million viewers tuning in to draw ITV2’s biggest audience ever. The overnight ratings were up by 1 million viewers from last year’s final episode, 2.2 million viewers from the season two finale and 2.8 million from the season one finale.
“We cast very attractive people, because it is a sexy show,” Mortimer said when asked about criticism of the body image the series promotes. He added that Love Island viewers could actually feel motivated ahead of summer holiday season to work out and eat more healthily as the cast needs to work hard to look good.
The executives weren’t asked about a planned ITV streaming service. CEO Carolyn McCall in July said that the company sees “an opportunity to build a subscriber video-on-demand service, so a streaming service, in the U.K. on the back of our brand, our content and significant cross-promotion capability.”
McCall, who has been leading the company since the start of the year, made the comment as she unveiled a strategy refresh under the theme “More Than TV,” which focuses on three areas: “strengthening the integrated producer broadcaster [business model of operating networks and the ITV Studios TV production business], growing U.K. and global production, and creating a scaled direct-to-consumer business.”
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