UK commercial broadcaster ITV is launching a new participation TV channel to be called ITV Play, as it looks to find revenues outside its main television network.
The new channel aims to generate a £20 million profit in the first year. ITV intends to receive half of its total revenues from outside its main ITV1 channel by 2010.
ITV Play, which has been available as part of overnight programming, will launch initially as a dedicated channel on Freeview, followed by other platforms. It will feature audience participation programmes with prizes, reflecting a growing trend in television.
The controller of ITV play William van Rest helped establish the sector in his previous role at Optimistic Entertainment.
“ITV Play is another valuable addition to our growing portfolio of businesses which have a direct relationship with the consumer,” said Jeff Henry, head of the ITV consumer division. “As with our mobile and broadband initiatives we are responding to consumer demand with new and innovative products.”
The channel will feature a new show called The Mint, a co-production between Ludus TV and Enteraction, operators of The Great Big British Quiz Channel. Rather than using interactive television, viewers will be able to call or text the programme to win prizes or enter for the main jackpot prize.
Another format will be a pub quiz based around the Rovers Return in the soap opera Coronation Street.
Charles Allen, the chief executive of ITV said: “We believe that ITV Play has enormous potential to lead the market for participation TV with higher production values, better programmes and bigger prizes. The Play brand will sit alongside ITV’s existing family of channels as the place to find exciting, honest and entertaining original interactive programmes.”
“A major focus for ITV is the development of our consumer operations — those parts of our business that deliver products and services directly to viewers who pay for them through subscription, transactional or interactive revenues.”
Announcing annual results, ITV plc reported revenues up 6% at £2.17 billion, with the greatest growth outside the main ITV1 channel, which has seen its audience share and advertising revenues slump in recent years with the rise of multichannel television.
Interactive transactions and online advertising revenues provided £45 million in 2005, up from £21 million the previous year. ITV spent £120 million buying the Friends Reunited web site and could pay up to a further £55 million based on future performance.
“These results demonstrate that we are delivering ITV’s digital future today,” said Charles Allen. “We have transformed ITV from an analogue, single channel federation to a multi-channel, multi-platform, content driven business firmly focused on the needs of viewers and advertisers.”