ITV (Independent Television) is the British commercial television service which started broadcasting in 1955 as a rival to The BBC. The broadcaster's main channel broadcasts on Channel 3 across the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man and since the late 1990s ITV have launched further national channels on the British digital television platforms.
ITV historically consisted of 15 regional TV companies which served "franchise areas", which began at various times from 1955 onwards before virtually the whole UK had its own station by the mid-1960s:
- London: Served by different stations during the week (Associated-Rediffusion/Rediffusion London from 1955-68, Thames Television from 1968-92, and Carlton Television from 1993) and on weekends (ATV London from 1955-68, London Weekend Television/LWT from 1968).
- Central England: Initially served by different stations during the week (ATV Midlands) and on weekends (ABC) from 1955-68, then ATV all week round from 1968-81, then Central (also all week round) from 1982.
- North of England: Initially served by different stations during the week (Granada) and on weekends (ABC) from 1956-68, then split to Granada all week round in the North West and Yorkshire Television all week round in, erm, Yorkshire, from 1968.
- Central Scotland: Scottish Television/STV (Central) from 1957.
- Wales and West of England: TWW (Television West and Wales) from 1958-68 and originally only South Wales until 1964, Harlech Television/HTV from 1968.
- South and South East England: Southern Television from 1958-81, Television South/TVS from 1982-92, and Meridian Broadcasting from 1993.
- North East England: Tyne Tees Television from 1959.
- East Anglia: Anglia Television from 1959.
- Northern Ireland: Ulster Television/UTV from 1959.
- South West England: Westward Television from 1961-81, Television South West/TSW from 1982-92, Westcountry Broadcasting from 1993.
- Cumbria, South Scotland, and the Isle of Man: Border Television from 1961.
- North Scotland: Grampian Television/STV (North) from 1961.
- The Channel Islands: Channel Television from 1962.
- North and West Wales: Wales West and North/Teledu Cymru from 1962-64, when the station went bust and its franchise area was merged with the rest of Wales and West of England.
In 1981, a separate nationwide franchise was set up for an early morning service called TV-am, which began on 1 February 1983. It was replaced in 1993 by GMTV (Good Morning Television). GMTV was phased out and breifly replaced with Daybreak from 2010 to 2014. Daybreak in turn was eventually replaced by Good Morning Britain.
The London weekday/weekend split is an historical relic from the days of tighter regulation. The feeling back then was that a single London franchise would be too powerful a force in the ITV Network, so its broadcasting hours were divided among two companies. This was also done in The Midlands and in the North of England, but by 1968 one broadcaster was elected to broadcast all week long in these parts of the country, although the North was split into two regions at the same time.
The ITV companies best known outside the UK were Granada, Thames Television, and LWT. ATV, although a major network provider, used a sister company, ITC Entertainment, to distribute shows internationally. The minor regions (that is, those that never had a weekday/weekend split), contributed relatively little to the network, although the larger ones often found niches — Southern, for example, was noted for its children's programming.
For most of its existence, ITV was very regionalised; only the name of the local regional franchisee was regularly used on air until 1989. From 1989, dual branding of national (ITV) and local (Thames, Yorkshire etc.) identities was used. In 2002, following gradual deregulation which allowed the Granada and Carlton companies to buy out the other regional companies during The '90s and eventually merge (in 2004), a unified brand of ITV1 was adopted in England and Wales. It still remains a very touchy subject today among some UK TV viewers.
In 1998 Granada and Carlton established the ill-fated ONdigital (later ITV Digital), a subscription-based digital terrestrial broadcast system. This went bust in 2002 because of technical problems and competition from satellite and cable, in what was seen by some industry critics as a re-run of British Satellite Broadcasting's defeat by Sky Television - the only thing that really survived was the knitted monkey used in the adverts, which was taken on by PG Tips (to prevent digital terrestrial from becoming extinct a new consortium relaunched the system as Freeview, with compatible, though more robust, signals, and no subscriptions. A limited number of subscription channels, called Top-Up TV, were added later).
Regional branding is very rarely seen on screen, apart from ITV Wales and the still independently-owned STV service, with UTV (despite now being owned by ITV) keeping its name, albeit under ITV's style. While Ofcom still obliges each region to have its own local news programmes (for the time being), regional programming on ITV has now become virtually non-existent.
ITV gets its news programmes from ITN (Independent Television News), who have provided news bulletins for the network since Day One and which was originally controlled by all of the ITV companies. The station's flagship news bulletin, News At Ten, was first broadcast in 1967 and has continued on and off since (also, nowadays most ITV news bulletins still use a variation on the original News At Ten theme tune). ITN also provides Channel Four with its news programme, as well as celebrity/entertainment news coverage for Channel Four's flagship music channel, 4Music. They used to do the news for Channel Five, as well, until 2005 when they lost the contract to Sky. They eventually regained the contract in 2012. ITN also makes a short entertainment news programme for digital channel 5*.
ITV has been having a lot of problems recently, due to the "credit crunch" hitting its income in a huge manner and general poor quality. Drama shows have been hit badly - Demons was poor, for a start. Wire in the Blood and its flagship prime-time show Primeval were cancelled, though the latter was brought back with help from The Other Side.
Many of ITV's prime-time flagships have received a lot of viewer attention but very little critical success, such as Pop Idol (and its successors The X Factor and American Idol) and Britain's Got Talent. It has also found a (justified) reputation for celebrity-reality rubbish like Celebrity Wrestling and Celeb Air. Its biggest Long-Runners are soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale, and there are concerns that ITV is losing any new quality programming.
The children's department closed a couple of years back, its last production being a show involving two child-eating hyenas. Regional studio centres were shut down and sold off, leading to TheStreet (which it makes for The BBC) being cancelled despite winning Emmys.
For a brief period, STV went through a phase of dropping network programming (it opted out of showing The Bill and Midsomer Murders) in favour of showing its own productions and acquired content (such as Underbelly and South Park). It looked like withdrawing fully and forming a rival setup, but counter lawsuits between ITV and STV have seen this fall by the wayside. The disputes have been settled, with STV no longer taking part in the original co-op structure of the network and instead buying the entire ITV slate as an affiliate.
It looked likely ITV could fail, with figures in the TV industry members speculating the company would call in the receivers and go bust. Since 2009, ITV has returned to making a profit.
Broadcasts on seven main channels:
- ITV: The main channel, previously known as ITV1 from 2001 to 2013.
- ITV2: Mostly aimed at younger viewers. Airs the behind-the-scenes spinoffs of Cowell-based talent contests, as well as celebrity documentaries and, er, The Only Way Is Essex. Also does midweek repeats of ITV weekend programming.note
- ITV3: Aimed at older viewers. Mostly broadcasts British crime dramas, like Agatha Christie's Poirot, A Touch of Frost and Midsomer Murders and the occasional US series in a similar vein such as Murder, She Wrote, as well as older comedies like On the Buses and Mr. Bean.
- ITV4: Something of a 'miscellaneous' channel; the programming is mostly aimed at men. A lot of it's cop shows (real and fictional) and sports. Rather obscure; Stephen Fry once joked, as Peter Kingdom, "Is there an ITV4?"
- CITV: Kids' channel. For a few hours on Saturdays and Sundays, its programming is broadcast on ITV. Not to be confused with TV station CITV in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (which was long branded as ITV before it became the city's Global affiliate, known as "Global Edmonton").
- In October 2014, a sixth Freeview channel, ITVBe was launched. This revolves around lifestyle and fashion shows as well as reality TV and appears to be aimed largely at a female demographic.
- In June 2014, they launched ITV Encore, a premium channel available only on paid subscription services, showing ITV's vast archive programming.
Defunct ITV channels include the ITV News Channel - operated by ITN - and the ITV Sport Channel, a failed venture into the early terrestial Pay-TV market, the collapse of which nearly bankrupted the British Basketball League, and left a lot of other niche British sports leagues in financial trouble. Also included were the Carlton Pay-TV networks (Carlton Food, Carlton Select, Carlton World, Carlton Cinema, and Carlton Kids); these were all shut down by 2003, as well as Granada Sky Broadcasting's channels (a joint-venture between them and Sky, which included Granada Plus (Granada archive programming); Granada Men & Motors (Exactly What It Says on the Tin); Granada Talk TV (also Exactly What It Says on the Tin); and Granada Good Life/Breeze (lifestyle). Breeze shut down in 2002; Granada Plus was unceremoniously replaced by ITV3 in 2004 (on the day of the launch of the latter, so as to get it on Sky as soon as possible); Men & Motors lasted until 2010, when it was shuttered to make way for ITV HD; its remaining programming was moved to ITV4).