The media world is all of a twitter over the appointment of Royal Mails’ Adam Crozier to the arch poison chalice known as the long-vacant chief executive role at ITV plc and just as commentators are taking in the news and ageing television anchors/presenters are tweaking CV’s and dusting off the audition tapes, [Ed: They call them video files Julian !] headshot photographs, possibly taken a few years back when nature was kinder, is the jolly suggestion that Allan Leighton, the former chairman of Royal Mail, might have had a hand in the process.
Whilst ex-ASDA supremo Archie Norman, chairman of ITV, maintains in public the search for the CEO was both global in outlook and thorough in process, he did have to contend with an oddball board including an outed banker; it all seems strange to some that Crozier was appointed at the Royal Mail by Leighton, while Leighton himself previously worked for Norman at Asda.
So expect happy ITV workers to brush up their shelf stacking and stamp licking skills, add footfall ratios into the green room conversation and the value of shelf facings, if they have to return the compliment. “All multi-skilled staff to the checkouts” might be a more entertaining form of sign off but the thrust now is shareholder returns and as luck would have it, the legal requirement for BSkyB to offload its 17 percent holding in ITV plc might well put the whole shooting match “into play” when considered in this light the Crozier move looks slightly more appealing to the City and Fund managers, down to their last few million.
Clearly the decision was taken to go for a talent well outside of the usual broadcast feeding pool and to ensure that ITV is now well and truly seen as a brand of baked beans rather than a series of egos wrapped in cotton wool and splashed with a veneer of yellow and black paint (the newish ITV brand roll out looks like a giant demented wasp that has thrown itself at the back of national and regional news studios. The latter soon to be dumped in the interest of service improvement …
But to understand the background you have to go back to my September 20th blog on ITVplc ans I had thrown my hat in the right but they were still looking for the elusive broadcast talent, still their loss but I manged to get a few points over thast have to my mind assisted the appointment of Mr Crozier. This is what I said then:
So what is Tony Balls real purpose at ITV plc? The clue is in the coterie of shareholders supporting his campaign and application for the job. They include the highly creative "telly professionals" Legal and General and broadcasting stalwarts Fidelity???? Precisely, both these worthies see piles of cash locked into a declining business and seemingly Mr Ball has the magic key to set those locked up funds free. If only to bolster the balance sheet of shareholders by an early exit strategy. One can only speculate but expect an almighty fire sale and a wholsale shedding of senior personnel and a much pruned payroll. First to go will be the production arm ITV studios and as much of the redundant or underused studio space around the country.
A legacy estate from happier times when ITV was a series of self-contained television stations strongly identified with the regions: Yorshire, Tyne Tees, Grampian, London Weekend, Thames and so on. Expect Mr Ball to rapidly replace senior management with something approaching the Sky model.
Fully robotic studio operations. Young eager (cheap)industry newcomers and graduates straight out of media studies courses. The regional news operation already on the sick list will vanish as deals are done directly with other news suppliers, podcasters and bright freelances with digital transmission equipment.
Expect wholesale opposition from the Unions but Tony Ball can turn around and point to decimated advertising cash inflows. Unions will have to cut a deal and talent likewise will see the gravy train that was old style ITV has not only left town but looks increasing like the National Express East Coast model - destined to hit the buffers in eighteen months...I hope not, but perhaps Mr Ball we can have The Bill back at its normal early evening time together with the old cast - on reduced fees naturally?
Some commentators maintain that such a trawl of the world's media talent could have been undertaken inside three weeks that Norman has had his feet under the ITV boardroom table. But in reality, the talent pool is not that large and a safe pair of hands even smaller.
Crozier is a a fan of corporate cut and slash, so a few sacred cows and much loved programmes if they don’t meet the bean=counting formulae will soon be history. The days of on tap limos, cleb. presenters and personal drivers will also face the Crozier cull. Green rooms may take on the hue of a temperence society hall.
Internal candidates John Cresswell, the chief operating officer and acting CEO since Michael Grade's departure, many thought Cresswell would just be given the job, and director of television Peter Fincham must wonder where the hurricane or twister originated from. No doubt the two are already thinking if they do have a future or should they just fold up their tents and move on? Urgent talks to prevent this over the coming weekend will be required. If these fail then expect some rapid shuffles and some strange backrfoom namers coming to the fore.
Expect either an explosion or friendly takeover of the territory occupied by managing director, brand and commercial Rupert Howell - he and Crozier, have crossed expense pads before at Saatchi & Saatchi. So have we all been taken in by the very public and long drawn search process or was Crozier being groomed by the great and good at ITV plc and their professional advisors and will a few non-exec board roles be lobbed his way as further sweetners. Who Knows?
One thing is certain, any independent production company having a series in the pipeline with ITV productions or in the regions, can not only expect the previously agreed budgets and rights to be trimmed but in true supermarket style, they may well be invited to make a ‘voluntary’ contribution to marketing and promotion costs, if future commissions are to be fed their way..
Note to self: I must dust down my file of game show formats, under the new regime, I’ll give Simon Cowell two years no matter how high he wears his trousers!
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