Why ITV Is Hot for 'Love Island' And Plans to Take It Beyond the U.K.

'Love Island' - H 2017
Courtesy of ITV

Britain's "most talked about show of the summer" is getting local versions "in most territories where we have a production business," the British TV giant says.

"It is a really delightful show. I think it hits the mood of the times. It is romantic, positive, upbeat." Peter Bazalgette, executive chairman of ITV, couldn't stop gushing about the British TV giant's latest hit show on the company's quarterly earnings conference call at the end of July.

No, he wasn't talking about royal drama Victoria or talent show Britain's Got Talent on flagship channel ITV1. And no, he wasn't announcing a return of drama favorite Downton Abbey.

He was talking about ITV2 reality show Love Island, which had just finished its third season amid loads of buzz and media coverage. It was immediately renewed for next year, and now ITV's production arm, ITV Studios, is looking to bring the format to a slew of international markets.

"We shouldn't forget that this is a show we own, and by the end of the year we hope to have a version of Love Island commissioned in most territories where we have a production business," ITV CFO and COO Ian Griffiths said on the earnings call. "Our studio strategy has been focused on returning formats and IP with the potential to travel, and this is a great example of exactly that and it also demonstrates that younger viewers will engage with unique TV."

First up is Love Island Germany, produced by ITVS Germany, which starts in September, with ITV hoping to announce more commissions of international versions soon. Industry watchers expect more announcements by the time TV executives travel to Cannes for MIPCOM in mid-October.

The premise of the show is simple enough that it can be adapted in other markets: a group of contestants, called Islanders, live isolated from the outside world in a villa in Mallorca, Spain under video surveillance. They must couple up  whether for love, friendship or money. After an initial coupling up based on first impressions, they are forced to consider "re-coupling" and decide whether to remain in the current couple or swap. Any Islander who remains single after the coupling is eliminated from the island. The couple that remains at the end wins £50,000, or $66,000.

It's been a hit in terms of ratings and water cooler and social media talk across Britain this summer. The ITV Studios and Motion Content Group co-production over its seven-week run this year particularly connected with younger audiences. "Love Island demonstrates that young viewers engage in great TV content," said Bazalgette. And ITV Studios' creative director for entertainment, Richard Cowles, said: "It has become the most talked about show of the summer."

Not only British tabloids, but also higher-brow publications have been full of coverage of the contestants, their antics, exit interviews and discussions of their future plans. ITV executives highlighted how the show seems to have connected with viewers across various social groups. Of course, the fact that some contestants got into more than just heated conversations with each other likely also helped the buzz.

ITV executives, of course, have focused more on the ratings and how they show that the series brought people together and made young viewers pay attention to their TV again.

"This is a great example of ITV as an integrative use of [a] broadcaster," said Griffiths. "We brought this show back three years ago [after a celebrity version in 2005 and 2006], and season 1 was just about okay, but we gave it a second chance. Season 2 took off, and I might regret saying this but season 3 has exploded. It's huge live with over 2 million viewers per episode."

Added Bazalgette: "Love Island has doubled its audience this year. Its average audience last year is 1.3 million, it's 2.6 million this year for the final show." That was the overnight figure. Adding in a full week of catch-up viewing brought the finale audience to 3.1 million. The whole season on that basis averaged 2.3 million viewers.

Younger audiences have been "driving the ratings," ITV said after the season finale. Up until then, Love Island averaged 936,000 viewers aged 16-34 in the live and same-day ratings for a 30.2 percent share, up 90 percent from the previous year. Adding in delayed viewing, the show up until then averaged 1.4 million viewers aged 16-34 for a 32.3 percent share, up by 67 percent. And in the 16-24-year-old demo, Love Island averaged 685,000 viewers per episode for a 41.7 percent share, up 51 percent from the previous year.

And Griffiths highlighted: "It's the most talked about show on social media, and we've sold out the branded T-shirt and water bottles."

That is why ITV is looking to bring the British take on love on an island to the world. But Bazalgette also emphasized the benefits at home. "There's long-term value in that for us, because it's both popularizing ITV2 as a destination for young viewers and in fact, it's made ITV2 now the top digital channel for 16-24-year-olds," he said. "There's long-term value in its success for us in getting more registered users on the [online ITV] Hub."

And the ITV executive chairman can't wait for next summer. "We have an opportunity to monetize it much better next summer because you don't know in advance when a show is going to get a very high rating," he said. "But next summer, when Love Island has its [season] 4, we'll be able to do better deals and we'll be able to leverage the advertising possibilities and sponsorship possibilities even better."