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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"note  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 note  : 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 note : TWW (Television West and Wales) from 1958-68 and originally only South Wales until 1964, Harlech Television/HTV from 1968.note  note 
  • 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 Englandnote :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 the 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 (ironically, this had previously been the title of TV-am's flagship show).

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 were in the 1980s responsible for the oversight of Channel Four; the channel was funded by the ITV companies, who were in turn responsible for regional ad sales on C4; this meant they were (roughly) sister networks, and accordingly they often cross-promoted each others' offerings in the 1980s. ITV companies also produced many programmes for Channel Four, most notably Countdown (produced by Yorkshire Television, and indeed it was originally a spin-off of their regional newscast Calendar, with anchor Richard Whitely, who pulled double-duty on both shows, gaining the nickname "Twice-Nightly Whitely"). ITV's schools programming also moved to C4 in 1987, once Channel Four had enough nationwide coverage to deem it possible (the BBC had similarly switched their schools programmes from BBC One to BBC Two in 1983). Changes in C4's structure in the 1990s meant the two drifted apart by the end of that decade.

The ITV companies best known outside the UK were Granada, Thames Television, and London Weekend Television (LWT). ATV, although a major network provider, used a sister company, ITC Entertainment, to distribute shows internationally. The minor regions contributed relatively little to the network, although some of the larger minor regions often found niches when it came to their self-made programming - Southern, for example, was noted for its children's programming and Anglia for its flagship gameshow Sale of the Century. Anglia also gained international sales and recognition for its adaptation of Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected.

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 national brand of ITV1 was adopted in England and Wales (ITV1 had already been used in dual branding alongside the local regional name for a year prior to that). It still remains a very touchy subject today among some British TV viewers, and itís not unusual for ITV to still be called its old regional titles by the older generation. There is nothing like someoneís Nan/Great Gran asking for the channel to be changed to HTV or Thames to baffle anyone born after the year 2000, nevermind travelling elsewhere in the country and being asked to put Granada on when you're in the Tyne Tees region.

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). (It was later proven that Rupert Murdoch had employed hackers to crack the encryption scheme used by On/ITV Digital and other rival pay-TV companies in Europe.)

Regional branding is very rarely seen on screen, apart from ITV Cymru Wales and the still independently-owned STV service, with UTV-being owned by ITV since 2016-being the last to adopt ITV's national branding (in 2020). 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 5, 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 5STAR.

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 co-op structure of the network that existed at the time (the national schedule had gone through various permutations of ownership, generally under the control of the bigger broadcasters, before the Carlton/Granada deal) and instead buying the entire ITV slate as an affiliate.

ITV also owns the film libraries of The Rank Organisation, Granada, ITC Entertainment, and Alexander Korda.

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.

For more on the history of ITV, see ITV in the Face.

Broadcasts on six main channels:

  • ITV1: The main channel, previously known as simply ITV for its entire existence and later as ITV1 from 2001 to 2013 and rebranded as ITV1 again in 2022 as ITV launched ITVX, ITV Hub's official replacement.
  • ITV2: Mostly aimed at mostly late teens, and young adults. Airs the behind-the-scenes spinoffs of Cowell-based talent contests, as well as celebrity documentaries, the local version of Love Island, the upcoming UK reboot of Big Brother, and imports of American comedy shows like Family Guy & American Dad!. 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 programming on the channel consists of cop shows (real and fictional) and sports (notably motor racing and Horse Racing (ITV having won the right to broadcast the latter in the UK in 2017; if it's a major meeting like Royal Ascot or the Cheltenham Festival, or if it's Saturday afternoon, it will be on ITV1 instead). Rather obscure; Stephen Fry once joked, as Peter Kingdom, "Is there an ITV4?"
  • ITVBe: Aimed at largely at a female demographic. The channel broadcasts mostly reality TV, as well as lifestyle and fashion shows. It's flagship series is The Only Way Is Essex, which channel-hopped from ITV2 when the channel launched in 2014. In 2018, a preschool block entitled littleBe started airing on this channel, which currently runs from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM.

Defunct ITV channels include the ITV News Channel (operated by ITN), the ITV Sport Channel (part of the failed On/ITV Digital venture, the collapse of which nearly bankrupted the British Basketball League, and left a lot of other niche British sports leagues in financial trouble), ITV Play (a channel devoted exclusively to Phone-in Game Shows, unceremoniously shut down as part of scrutiny surrounding premium rate call-ins on British television), and ITV Encore, a Sky-only pay channel that broadcasted some of ITV's archive drama programmes. There were also channels operated by ITV's corporate predecessors — Carlton had their own batch of pay-TV networks (Carlton Food, Carlton Select, Carlton World, Carlton Cinema, and Carlton Kids); these were all shut down by 2003, along with 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 (with its remaining programming being moved to ITV4). CITV, ITV's children's programming brandnote , ceased to exist as a separate channel on September 1, 2023, with all present and future ITV children's content moving to ITVX Kids. The CITV brand still continues to be used for a daily morning block of kids' shows on ITV2 however.

Teletext:

From the 1970s onward, ITV had a teletext service, known as Oracle (Oracle stood for "Optical Reception of Announcements by Coded Line Electronics"); The Rival to the BBC's Ceefax service, it too offered up-to-the-minute news from ITN, weather and travel information, TV listings, fun and games stuff, and much more; it also carried additional information on Channel Four when they launched in 1982. It too fell victim to the early-1990s changes at ITV, losing the teletext franchise to the aptly-named Teletext Ltd., which took over for Oracle on the 1st of January, 1993. Teletext was perhaps best known for being the (often-unwilling) home of Digitiser, the video-game review section and general source of anarchic humor. Teletext eventually began to refocus itself around their successful holidays business, due in large part to the teletext medium itself becoming outmoded by the Internet. Teletext Ltd. ceased services on ITV and Channel Four by 2010, though they still exist as a travel website. Digitiser has been revived independently on the web, as well.

Teletext-based in-vision services were also provided by the ITV companies at times for their localized "Jobfinder" services, and ITV Nightscreen was also teletext-based to an extent (before changing technology turned it into more of a PowerPoint-esque slideshow); both programmes were mostly late-night/early-morning filler, though Nightscreen kept going into 2021.

Streaming service:

ITV's online video on-demand service was originally known as ITV Player when it was launched in 2009. It was subsequently revamped as ITV Hub in 2015, and again as ITVX in 2022. It primarily offers content from the ITV channels (see above), but as ITVX the plan is to offer more exclusive programming (the first major example being A Spy Among Friends), bringing it into line with the digital offerings of ITV's main rivals, The BBC and Channel 4.

List of television shows, specials, and TV films which air/aired on ITV (CITV shows are listed over on its page):


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