End of an era at ITV – at last

I was reading The Observer’s story this morning about how ITV mishandled the opportunity from Susan Boyle’s video. The thrust of the piece was that the video in all its forms – on YouTube, ITV.com or on the BBC – was now over 100 million views and rising and yet ITV has failed to capitalise fully from advertising potential around the global phenomenon. The reason? It has been unable to negotiate a suitable deal with Google, according to the article…

Part of ITV’s reluctance to agree a deal with YouTube could be because it wants to maintain the traffic to its own website. There is also speculation that it is trying to strike too hard a deal, using Boyle’s unique position as a bargaining tool for a better share.

Another explanation could be ITV chief executive Michael Grade’s public loathing of YouTube, which he has branded a “parasite” living off TV shows and content created by the commercial broadcaster.

Last week Michael Grade announced he was standing down as CEO of the stricken broadcaster. It occurred to me that this was probably the end of an era. There was a time when the gifted superstars of broadcasting could be relied upon to ride to the rescue of TV channels which had lost their footing. Grade’s departure after less than two years, proves that is no longer the case.

The internet moves very fast and success happens wherever it happens; ITV’s response to the Susan Boyle phenomenon seems to have been 1. to be have completely taken by surprise by the speed of events and 2. determined to stake their claim to what was there’s “by rights” – i.e. a sizeable share of any advertising spoils and exclusive rights to the traffic. ITV, headed by Grade, just don’t understand the internet (consider Friends Reunited which had an enviable head-start in the UK social networking space and has now been put up for sale.) Maybe a change of managerial outlook will serve the broadcaster better?

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