ITV director of television Kevin Lygo has admitted that the return of hit UK reality show Love Island looks unlikely because of Covid-19 restrictions and revealed his fears that lockdown could push viewers to services such as Netflix.
Love Island, produced by ITV Studios Entertainment and Motion Content Group, has been a ratings smash for the UK commercial broadcaster but Lygo admitted there were big questions over its planned summer run.
What signal might it send out if everyone there is slathering all over each other, while elsewhere people are being told not to go into the park?
ITV’s Kevin Lygo
“We are right now approaching the moment where we have to look if it is feasible,” he said on an online controller session organised by the Edinburgh TV Festival, during which he questioned the possibility of being able to send hundreds of staff to the Spanish island of Mallorca, where the show is shot.
“In six weeks, our production people would need to be going to [the set on] Mallorca – is that really viable and feasible now?” he said. “Will Mallorca open their doors to hundreds of production people, will there be quarantine?
“We have to factor all that in. And what signal might it send out if everyone there is slathering all over each other, while elsewhere people are being told not to go into the park?”
Lygo admitted the decision would have “a big commercial impact” on the broadcaster, which has been hit hard by the advertising slump caused by Covid-19. He also said producers had tentatively explored shooting the UK version in Cornwall, but decided against it because it “wouldn’t have been the same show.”
Love Island has become a key fixture for ITV and was extended to run twice a year last summer.
The show and its broadcaster have, however, faced criticism for failing to support those working on the programme, after host Caroline Flack and two former contestants reportedly committed suicide. ITV subsequently revamped its aftercare support for those working on the series.
The future of fellow ITV reality show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, which airs in winter, is also unclear but Lygo said it was proceeding “in the normal way” at present.
Lockdown’s lingering effects
Lygo also said that the “brutal truth” was that there would be a gap in new shows being aired in the coming year because of the production hiatus and he admitted being fearful that it could impact ITV audiences, as viewers across all demographics explore services such as Netflix for programming options.
The ITV content chief said audiences were not universally up across peaktime and while acknowledging some “big hits”, pointing to dramas such as White House Farm, he said the lockdown could affect how audiences consume content in the future.
“People’s habits are changing, they’re discovering Netflix, Amazon, Disney+ and storing things up. Between 8pm and 10pm, what would have been peak time, I am concerned that we need to up our game to keep people staying and watching us.
“Habits will be changing depending how long this goes for,” he added, and the lack of live sport and the potential of long-running dramas such as Coronation Street having to stop transmission until production restarts meant the network might “not have the strongest of summer schedules.”
“All of this means we will have just to be better at what we do, because audiences are technologically more adept and there’s more choice than ever before in terms of what you can watch right now.”