ITV is re-entering the UK Pay TV arena after inking a deal with British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) to launch HD channels of ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4 on the Sky satellite subscription platform, as part of a 5-year strategy to explore new income streams and reduce reliance on traditional advertising revenues.
Sky+HD subscribers will be able to watch ITV2 HD from October onwards (coinciding with the beginning of X-Factor/ Xtra Factor), with ITV3 HD and ITV4 HD scheduled to follow shortly. Here’s a list of the TV programmes due to be broadcast in high-definition on these channels:
- ITV2 HD: The Xtra Factor, Britain’s Got More Talent, Secret Diary Of A Call Girl (Series 3), Gossip Girl, I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here Now!;
- ITV3 HD: Marple, Lewis, Joanna Lumley’s Nile, Martin Clunes: Islands Of Britain;
- ITV4 HD: Uefa Europa League football, Tour de France, and some films.
ITV’s previous foray into the Pay TV market was nothing short of a failure: ONdigital was launched by Carlton Communications and Granada PLC in 1998, rebranded as ITV Digital in 2001, and eventually went into administration in 2002. But ITV chief executive Adam Crozier was quick to stress that today’s announced high-def broadcast deal with Sky was necessary for ITV’s future growth, as the company has until now been slow to come to terms with the popularity of internet TV and the sustained growth of Pay TV subscription services.
Despite reporting a pre-tax profit of £97 million for the first six months of this year on the back of increased advertising in conjunction with the FIFA World Cup 2010, Mr Crozier outlined a 5-year Transformation Plan to deliver content across more platforms and countries, and most importantly to remodel the underlying culture and economics of the company so that it becomes less dependent on TV advertising as a revenue source. The £105 million loss ITV posted during the first half of last year as a result of a slump in advertising due to the economic recession probably played a part in this shift in strategic objectives.
While ITV is also looking into the possibility of offering its ITV2 HD, ITV3 HD and ITV4 HD channels on the Virgin Media cable subscription platform, its deal with Sky is exclusive among satellite network providers. This means that these high-definition channels will not be available on Freesat, even though ITV has played a part in launching and funding the free-to-air satellite TV service. Along with the arrival of Freeview HD, the persistent paucity of HD channels may mark the beginning of the end for Freesat.