The chief executive of the ITV television network in the UK is expected to announce his own departure from the commercial broadcasting company which has so far failed to find a compelling digital strategy to reverse the structural issues that have contributed to its dismal decline.
Charles Allen helped to create a unified ITV out of a network of fifteen separate franchise regions, but the resulting company has been unsuccessful in addressing its underlying structural problems.
These extend far beyond the current contract-rights renewal system that allows advertisers to reduce payments for advertising slots in line with the declining performance of the channel. The value of reaching a television audience that is being eroded on all sides will inevitably reduce.
Commercial television in the UK was once an effective monopoly in a carefully regulated commercial environment, based on broadcasting spectrum limited to a restricted number of channels. That market and the television audience is fragmenting, and the business model based on 30 second advertising slots is no longer a licence to print money.
The initial transition to digital terrestrial television in the form of ONdigital, latterly ITV Digital, and the development of a pay-television platform, was an unmitigated financial fiasco.
Distracted by this, ITV failed to exploit the potential of cable and satellite, or to bring a free-to-air alternative to market. It only belatedly launched a multichannel proposition in the form of a number of undifferentiated supplementary channels and has yet to produce a high-definition service.
In terms of interactivity, ITV has not emulated the success of the BBC or Sky, largely through lack of investment or corporate commitment. Even in interactive advertising, which could be at the centre of a successful commercial television model, ITV has lacked innovation.
Its online offering has largely been limited to a programme support role, and a broadband video strategy has yet to emerge beyond very limited local services. The business logic of buying a social network through the acquisition of Friends Reunited has so far defied justification by results.
Critics point to a lack of distinctive programming as a core problem. Beyond the staple soap operas, talent and reality shows that provide its popular prime time programming, in a less regulated environment ITV has had little incentive to invest in landmark drama or documentaries.
The real problem is that ITV has failed to develop a relationship with its viewers that it can extend across other platforms and exploit through other commercial models. Consumers identify with particular programmes rather than with ITV as a brand.
These are issues faced by all advertiser-supported channels in an increasingly on-demand multi-platform environment, but ITV has struggled to make the transition from linear analogue television to new digital distribution networks.
Audience figures and advertising revenues have been slowly sliding, as has the ITV share price. It may not be too late for ITV as a traditional television channel, but it needs a new media approach to address an otherwise inevitable long-term decline.