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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 June 2005, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Can ITV return from ratings slump?
By Tom Bishop
BBC News entertainment reporter

Celebrity Love Island
Celebrity Love Island has been derided by television critics

ITV has denied it is in crisis after poor ratings have seen it axe a number of high profile shows part-way through their runs.

The channel dropped Celebrity Wrestling last month and last week Fat Families and The Real Good Life were axed after just two episodes each.

Nevertheless ITV head of entertainment Claudia Rosencrantz blamed a negative media for the shows' failure, during the channel's 50th anniversary year.

"The pack has decided that it's our turn, and that's fine," she told The Independent newspaper.

Granada, which produced all three axed series and the critically-derided Celebrity Love Island for ITV, also said there was no need to panic.

However last week Coronation Street writers also joined the argument, complaining after the long-running soap was moved to a later slot in an attempt to attract viewers to Celebrity Love Island.

"It's madness to hobble a tried and tested thoroughbred by tying it to something heading for the knackers' yard," writer John Fay told Broadcast magazine.

Celebrity Wrestling
Every time you think they have reached the bottom of the barrel, they scrape off a little bit more
Simon Edge, Daily Express

Neither has Celebrity Love Island been a favourite with viewers. On Friday it attracted an average of 3.4 million viewers compared to four million watching Channel 4's Big Brother and 3.9 million who saw BBC One's What's the Problem? with Anne Robinson.

So what is the problem with ITV programmes, and will it be able to bounce back from its ratings slump?

"Whilst a lot of channels look to appeal to the lowest common denominator, ITV just seems to be doing it with more abandon than anybody else," said Simon Edge, TV critic at the Daily Express.

"Every time you think they have reached the bottom of the barrel, they scrape off a little bit more," Mr Edge said.

'Bargain basement'

Celebrity Wrestling and Celebrity Love Island were "bargain basement versions" of hit shows, he said, featuring contestants who barely qualified for the title of "celebrity" carrying out apparently pointless challenges.

Fat Families
As a genre, cheap reality TV shows don't work
Jim Shelley, Daily Mirror

Daily Mirror critic Jim Shelley said ITV was paying the price for having relied too heavily upon reality television.

"To me, ITV has always focused on the cheaper end of the market, whereas the best reality TV shows - The Apprentice, Jamie's Kitchen, Wife Swap etc - have high production values and some sense of thought," he said.

"For some reason, as a genre, cheap reality TV shows don't work. In a cheap sitcom or cop show, the actors', directors' or writers' talent can help raise the programme. But when you're just dealing with the public, there's nothing else there."

Mr Shelley concluded: "They would probably have been better just not getting into it at all."

Poorly scheduled

TV Quick magazine's Clair Woodward believed the recent ITV shows failed simply because they were either based upon dated concepts or poorly scheduled.

"Fat Families would have worked in ITV's strong daytime schedule, but daytime viewers don't want to watch the same sort of programme in the evening," she said.

ITV is a very clever company and I'm sure it will learn from these mistakes
Clair Woodward, TV Quick
"And The Real Good Life was about 20 years too late."

Tried-and-tested programme formulas have proved popular for ITV, such as dramas Heartbeat and The Last Detective, but Ms Woodward said the channel had "over-egged the pudding" with its sheer quantity of reality series.

"Programme-makers must now go away and take the time to come up with something fresh and different," she said.

"ITV is a very clever company and I'm sure it will learn from these mistakes."


Your comments

Perhaps ITV need to go back to basics. Bring back quailty drama like Morse or Rumpole. Quality comedy like Rising Damp.People are tired of seeing has beens or wannabes trying to entertain us! Perhaps ITV need to take a leaf out of the BBC's book and give their viewers wild life shows, arts and entertainment which has proved popular with viewers.
Simon Manning, London

I think the general problem with ITV is that they went through a long period of dumbing down and now people don't consider them a decent channel. Rather one full of fodder for brain dead people.
Lorraine Higgins, Liverpool

British TV has been becoming more like low-brow American TV ever since Five showed Touch the Truck, and has gradually gone down hill ever since. The sooner these channels realise that reality TV is no longer a sure-fire winner and start to put more good dramas, sitcoms and documentries back on TV the better.
Tane Piper, Edinburgh

Television programmes made on the back of a concept is dying. Get rid of the comittees and start hiring scriptwriters and good actors.
Anthony, Abingdon

I can't remember the last time I watched anything on ITV. Its week night schedules consist entirely of Coronation Street followed by two hours of mindless reality banality. Did they learn nothing from the failure of Celebrity Wrestling? I hear their next show will be reality TV ideas from Hell.
Joe Wightman, Newbridge

ITV should stop messing with its regular viewers in favour of new shows or one-offs like football. I have stopped watching Coronation Street because I feel an hour long episode is too heavy going for a soap. Two episodes on a Monday night was pushing it, one hour long episode is just not watchable.
Fiona, Dumbarton

ITV has always been the lowest common denominator with regards to TV programming, they are like The Sun in the newspaper world. Their content is now so bad that I doubt there is anything they can do to restore their image.
Jon, UK

There are various satellite channels which already have a more professional and interesting evening line-up than anything available on the various ITV regions. The only thing that keeps people watching is habit. If you took away Emmerdale and Coronation street ITV's audience would be right up there with the Wrestling Channel.
Bill Nelson, Belfast

These axed series should have got the chop ages ago. They are insulting viewers' intelligence with this rubbish. As for Big Brother, this shouldn't see the light of day again either! I think ITV need to focus on good nature programmes and solid comedy if they want to have any chance of keeping viewers.
Julie, Edinburgh

Both my wife and I are so bored with endless reality tv programmes. We hardly ever watch ITV now but we have become great fans of UKTV gold where the days of quality programming is available to enjoy once again.
David Ellis, Manchester

When are they going to start showing some real television? When the schedule is full of soaps and reality shows then something is missing in the creativity department.
Neil Small, Scotland

Look to ITV3 and the DVD shelves to see what classic shows the channel has produced in the past - Minder, The Sweeney, The Avengers, Robin of Sherwood, The Professionals...the list goes on. Will future generations look back as fondly on Ultimate Force and Celebrity Love Island? I think not.
Andy, Oxford

It's not necessarily the viewers that ITV need to concern themsleves with. Advertisers pay premuim rates at peak times and if ITV do not perform the advertisers don't pay.
Chris Le-Mon, Dartford

You can say what you want abut the licence fee, but at least public service broadcasting brings you a truly diverse choice. ITV found something that worked (I'm a Celebrity...) and ran the idea into the ground.
Mike, Leeds

It would probably have to make quality programmes the whole family would sit down and watch. The BBC's success with Doctor Who on Saturday evenings proves the point.
Mike, London

The rot set in long ago. ITV needs to return to what was its unique selling point, that it was a network of regional stations providing strong local programming. Until it does so, the only way it can differentiate itself from the BBC and Channel 4 is to aim relentlessly downmarket.
Dan Ferris, Sidmouth

The hard fact of the matter is that ITV has has dumbed down its programming so much that there is now no one out there dumb enough to watch it. Axe the reality shows and put some money back into drama.
James Cason, Guisborough

Amid all the rubbish, ITV have some excellent jewels - Saturday Night Takeaway, Paul O'Grady, I'm A Celebrity, Coronation St - to name just a few. So what if some of their other programming choices have been poor? They should be free to experiment and take risks in order to find their next big hit. There are bound to be a few misses on the way there.
Simon, Cambridge

Horrible programming of this nature is normally the property of the US television system. I congratulate ITV and others for speeding down the 10 second TV road. It frankly illustrates the growing failure of mass reach TV - unless it is must-see rubbish.
Michael gale, Austin, USA

ITV should invest in making quality dramas aimed at a younger audience. They have spent too long rding on safe shows that mainly appeal to the 40+ age bracket. They need to remove one episode of Corornation Street a week and bring back Spitting Image ASAP.
Mitchell Stirling, Reading

Watching ITV is like reading the last 15 pages in The Daily Star - cheap, vapid and desperate.
Steve, Gloucester

More quality dramas - another Morse or Frost. How about some more adaptations of Ruth Rendell books? ITV do these things so well. Why not buy in some critically acclaimed American programmes like Desperate Housewives?. Get rid of reality TV as much as possible. It is drivel and that is why so many people turn off.
Helga Bradbent, Cardiff

ITV needs to work on quality control, even Five are looking more professional at the moment.
Jon Ayers, Swansea

Does no one remember the classic scene where Alan Partridge tries to sell desperately bad programme ideas to the TV executive? Very funny. However, Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank or Inner City Sumo would actually be preferable to some of the pap churned out these days.
Tony, Dubai, UAE

ITV has a habit of making spectacular reality failures. Remember Mr Right? The only remarkable thing about that show as it was pushed later and later in the schedule was that the presenter married the contestant!
Andy, Tenterden

Absolutely, it's time channels realised that the public will not put up with patronising, cheaply made shows. The majority of people have no interest in these formats, and when choice in primetime schedules are dominated by weak 'reality' formats, viewers have better options available elsewhere. It is simply laziness on the part of programme commissioners.
Anon, London

ITV have been right to axe these programmes - surely a basic understanding of business is to try and introduce fresh, new and exciting ideas to its consumers - not introduce a constant stream of gradually worsening similar products into an already oversaturated marketplace?
Barry Ricketts, Stourbridge

Too many reality shows. Not everyone wants to watch people sleeping, washing, practically soft porn sometimes.
Christine Denovan, Livingston, Scotland

Thanks heavens they've axed them, let's hope they see sense and leave Celebrity Love Island to rot where it belongs - in the bottom of the barrel. This type of TV shows everyone in a poor light - ITV, the participants and most of all the 3.4m viewers whose life must be so sad that this is what they choose to sit and watch.
Jeff Stevens, Stoke-on-Trent

Yes I do, the shows were absolute tripe and quite frankly,I think you could label Celebrity Wrestling as soft-core porn!Not the sort of thing you want to sit down and watch with your family on a Saturday night, really.
Grace Oliver, Malvern

Yes, ITV was right to dump those series - they were crass and stupid. What is needed now is something like Doctor who or some other sci-fi program to bring audiences back.
Nicholas Kingsley, Chichester,

Sensible programming needs to cater to a wide spread of interests. Not everyone wants to watch others doing the gardening, trying to smooch with a celebrity or whatever the fad of the moment appears to be. A real mix of quizzes, general entertainment and, yes, perhaps the odd reality show is a better way to deal with things.
Robert Paterson, High Wycombe

ITV's output is totally pathetic the programmes seems to get worse from week to week.
Kevin Quinn, Belfast

I have never been a fan of reality TV, seems to me that they are uninteresting, unintelligent and unattractive people doing futile and stupid things - and all the media wants out of them is to see them having sex. Glad to see the back of it. (although I did enjoy Strictly come dancing if that counts as reality TV)
Emma, UK

If the ITV head of entertainment Claudia Rosencrantz wants to blame "a negative media" for the shows' failure, instead of facing the stark fact that ITV makes and screens unwatchable rubbish these days - what was once (and could be again) a great broadcaster is completely doomed. It only has itself to blame.
Terry Purvis, Amsterdam, Netherlands

ITV could - shock horror - try providing something informative rather than mindless.
Martin, England

ITV should stop doing what everyone else is doing. Be orignal instead of doing reality shows and increasing time on soap operas. Why not just commission something more interesting something to make the veiwing public think, or do they presume we can't?
Trevor Massiah, Bristol

ITV will get better ratings for their shows when they appreciate that not everyone wants to dumb down in front of the television every evening. Quality drama, well written comedy and thought provoking documentaries aren't just the fodder for stuffy intellectuals? I like my celebrity magazines, like to be entertained and am just as likely to be influenced by a new shampoo commercial as the next person. But I need more than C-list celebrities trying to bag off with each other in public to spark my interest. This isn't reality - it's barely tasteful! Get some decent writers, and some decent quality programmes. People will talk about them at the water cooler just as much - and not feel like an idiot for doing so!
Sarah, Derby

For once the tactic of appealing to the lowest common denominator failed! Since these people will do anything they are told to, if they are told not to watch the series, they won't. In previous years, the critics told them to watch them, ITV saw massive ratings for poor quality shows and they are driven by ratings. The only two good reality shows are long gone - The Mole (Five) and Survivor (ITV). These appealed to a different audience, although unfortunately there weren't enough intellegent people for them to succeed in the ratings wars.
Derek Scott, East Midlands

Endless reality TV, interspersed with countless Crazy Frog adverts has really devalued this channel of recent.
Richard Weremiuk, Stoke

The people that run ITV rely too much on what the advertisers believe people are watching, rather than what the viewers actually want to watch. When the likes of Celebrity Wrestling is scheduled against a well-written and entertaining family drama like Doctor Who, there is clearly no contest. They should look to their past successes and not be scared of taking a risk. For their part, the advertisers should not try and dictate programming. Nobody willingly watches an advertisement - it is the greatest incentive to change channels.
Chris White, Yeovil, UK

ITV? Lowest common denominator. I never watch the channel because I can't stand it. Once advertisers realise that their money can be better spent elsewhere, I sincerely hope ITV goes into receivership.
Nick Wrigley, Bolton

Yes. reality tv is boring and like much tv repeated far too often. People want to watch original, talented writers and actors wanting to perform rather than further his/her own ego. Focus on making quality television instead of a cheap buck and you will make more money.
Samuel, Bristol

Yes, it WAS right and more stations should do the same! Reality TV stinks and we have been fed far too much!
Carole Young, Glasgow

It's about time all TV Channels woke up the reality that we, the viewers, are all reality tv'd out. Whatever happend to good old-fashioned quality family viewing? When I was a young teenager I remember watching various shows with my parents, now shows seem to target much smaller age ranges. We need modern day equivalents for things like Minder, Sykes, Ask the Family (no not the BBC2 version!) and so on. Focus on the family viewing content and you won't go far wrong.
Kenny Millar, Kirkintilloch, Scotland

I read when the BBC started Dad's Army the viewers ratings where poor. But the BBC stood by the programme - look what happened. I'm not saying they were good programmes, but they should be giving a chance for ironing out any problems.
Andrew McNeil, Chester

ITV was always the more tabloid channel with a focus on low-brow but often very entertaining shows. Reality TV is of little or now interest these days - people want drama, comedy, escapism; everything that ITV rarely if ever delivers these days. I haven't watched ITV1 for the last year to my knowledge and would rather watch Sky One who, it would appear, have stolen the lowest common denominator crown from ITV. If they can't compete on this level then they need to look at rebranding as a specialist station.
Martin Bowen, Cardiff

I can honestly say that apart from football, and maybe the odd film I, and I include my wife in this statement, have never tuned into ITV for any programme they have shown for the past two or more years. The reasons, there are many but any show with the words Celebrity, Worst, Greatest, Reality, from Hell have us passing the channel on the on-screen guide immediately. Sadly for ITV, I am probably their target audience for the advertisers - 30-something, married man, mortgage, one child, both my wife and myself degree educated with professional careers and disposable income. We are not posh, prudes or upper class snobs, but neither are we hooped earring, baseball-capped wearing chavs, who appear to be the target group ITV are aiming for with the majority of their programmes from Trisha in the morning to Celebrity Love Island in the evening.I dont know how they could improve, but a fundamental change is required.
Matt, Hampshire




SEE ALSO:
ITV shows axed as ratings plummet
09 Jun 05 |  Entertainment
ITV to drop Celebrity Wrestling
10 May 05 |  Entertainment
ITV wrestles for Saturday ratings
14 Apr 05 |  Entertainment
German Big Brother to run and run
07 Mar 05 |  Entertainment
Has reality TV become too cruel?
12 Jan 05 |  Entertainment


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