Isn’t it always the way? You try to say something positive and nice about ITV, and then the notion of the company’s CEO, Charles Allen, stepping down from the ailing and troubled company becomes a solid reality (there was no way round using ‘ailing’ and ‘troubled’ this time).
I’m feeling for Mr Allen at this moment – it must knock your confidence a bit when as soon as you offer to quit the top job, shares in ITV jump by 4.64 per cent on a wave of positive speculation over a successor. That has to hurt, but I suspect Allen is doing what he believes is right to secure the long-term future of a company he holds dear to his heart, having been with Granada since 1991 (although as Chief Exec of Granada Leisure, he was in charge of some motorway service stations and a backstage tour).
It was inevitable that somebody at ITV was going to have to fall on their sword sooner rather than later, if only to stem the onslaught of negative press and satisfy shareholders (lest we not forget that ITV is supposed to be in the business of making money). Will this happen? There does seem to be a sense of drawing a line under things, and come the August 9 board meeting in which it’s inevitable that Mr Allen will announce his resignation, the staff at Network Centre might start to breath a little easier. New starts, and all that.
But will anything really change? Mr Allen was responsible for throwing £120 million at buying Friends Reunited, which has largely been considered a bad move. So too was negotiating the contract rights renewal scheme that effectively constrained the advertising revenue ITV could make. Allen was making some bad decisions, that much is clear, but that means nothing to the man on the street.
To Joe and Jane Public, ITV is in the business of making TV programmes. That’s what they care about. They don’t care that ITV owns Friends Reunited, they don’t have much of an opinion on the network’s ad revenues. What they really care about is good telly, and on current form, ITV is making a pretty poor fist of that at the moment.
So, the real question is: has the right man taken the bullet? Much of the coverage about Allen’s imminent departure has focussed on replacement names, with anyone from Greg Dyke to Dawn Airey having their name thrown into the hat (although not necessarily by them). Personally, I really don’t care who takes over. I care that the suits in charge of programme making, of commissioning, of providing the creative output of ITV are the ones making the right decisions to guide ITV back to being the great British brand it used to be, and so easily could be again.