UK’s ITV details ‘on-demand first’ commissioning plan, preps ITV2 drama & factual shows

Paul Mortimer

UK commercial broadcaster ITV has confirmed it is to start commissioning directly for its ad-supported streamer ITV Hub and will order factual originals for youth-skewing brand ITV2.

ITV CEO Carolyn McCall said last year that the company would start ordering shows directly for its AVOD and SVOD streamer, and head of digital channels & acquisitions Paul Mortimer today said he is looking for scripted and factual shows.

Pandemic effect

Programming will be ordered for the ITV Hub and the youth-skewing ITV2 brand, Mortimer told the Creative Cities Convention, adding that the strategy shift had been accelerated because of viewing habits changing because of COVID.

“The pandemic has fast tracked the behaviour of audiences, more people want content on their own terms and at their own convenience, and younger audiences always get there first with these behaviours,” he said.

Love Island

“We need to adapt the way we commission for them. What we’re doing with CITV, ITVBe and ITV2 is focusing on their respective audiences’ preference for on-demand content so in terms of commissioning its commissioning really for ITV Hub, under those brands.

“Much of the content we commission and acquire for those brands will land on ITV Hub first. It’s all about shifting the windowing pattern, making it more convenient for audiences.”

Mortimer added that existing channels “aren’t going anywhere” while there will be “exceptions to on-demand first”. He pointed to reality hit Love Island and said it, along with other entertainment shows, “don’t lend themselves” to boxset viewing.

“But more generally, once you are freed of the constraints of scheduling and programming a linear channel, it becomes really exciting in terms of the possibilities of the different genres we might venture into – such as factual programmes,” he said.

ITV2’s factual fix

Mortimer’s role changed following the ‘Media and Entertainment’ structure introduced last year, with his remit now covering commissioning for ITV Hub and ITV’s younger skewing brands, such as ITV2, ITVBe and CITV.

Sue Murphy

He said that he now wanted to introduce new factual content to ITV2 in particular, as viewing habits shifted away from linear consumption.

“We prided ourselves that as a viewer you come in, lean back, have fun, and we programmed it so every programme led neatly into the next, it’s all about inheritance, it’s about 9pm junctions and watersheds. But guess what, on demand it’s not… and when you’re free of those linear channel constraints there’s other things you can do in programming terms…”

Mortimer said removing the constraints of having shows sharing “the same DNA” would mean new opportunities for unscripted.

“You go in and search, it’s not down to what the scheduler thinks you should be watching. We’re doing it because we have the creative freedom to, but also in catering to the audiences’ current tastes. We know that what the streamers have been providing, what YouTube provides, is a bit of everything, and in that the trick for us will be to also offer factual programming that deals with subjects that include and appeal to a younger audience.”

Mortimer is working Sue Murphy, head of factual entertainment at ITV, to develop the new commissioning strategy. A true crime anthology series for this Autumn is in the works, while pre-production on a drama for ITV2 has also started, with the show set to land next January.

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