MIPCOM ’18: ITV’s Carolyn McCall talks SVOD ambitions, M&A

CANNES, FRANCE - The rate of change in the TV industry, plans for cross-platform expansion and discussion of merger and acquisition strategy were key elements in a keynote conversation at MIPCOM ...
October 15, 2018

CANNES, FRANCE - The rate of change in the TV industry, plans for cross-platform expansion and discussion of merger and acquisition strategy were key elements in a keynote conversation at MIPCOM with ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall.

Marking her first MIPCOM with the Monday morning keynote, the former easyJet CEO elaborated upon ITV’s “More than TV” strategy and what that will mean in terms of investment and approach to audience engagement.

Interviewed by journalist and media analyst Kate Bulkley, McCall said the strategic shift reflects the need for media companies to “start from the consumer perspective” when it comes to the insatiable demand for content. In concrete terms, that will mean investing £60 million over three years in myriad areas, with expansion of ITV Hub, currently an on demand, catch-up service, into a “more personalized and richer user experience” part of the strategy.

“We wouldn’t be making the right shifts, given the world around us, if we weren’t also looking at doing something much more directly with the consumer.”

McCall also revealed more about ITV’s plans on the SVOD front, denying that the goal was to go head to head against the FAANGs. Instead, the intention is to create something unique that can co-exist with the established services.

“Netflix is Netflix,” she said. “What we will do will be specific and differentiated for the British market.”

With the aim to launch the service “sometime next year,” McCall said the ITV SVOD offering will contain “British-originated content” that will include programming from partners but will be “ITV led.” She added that original content made for the service will be produced “at some point.”

As for how the ITV platform would fare against the current market leaders, McCall said that internal research points towards viewers taking up more than one service, provided that they each provide unique content. With broadcasters such as ITV existing as both clients and competitors for such platforms, McCall said the FAANGs were “more friends than enemies,” and gave credit to Netflix and Amazon for re-establishing the notion that good content is worth paying for.

On the M&A front, McCall also addressed the speculation swirling around a potential ITV bid for Endemol Shine — discussion that was quashed when ITV issued a statement that it would not be offering a bid for the global producer/distributor.

“We did not say it wasn’t a good strategic fit with us,” she said regarding that statement. “Actually, it was an obvious strategic fit and our shareholders would’ve expected us to look at it seriously.

“It always comes down to price in the end, but it didn’t get to price,” she said of the internal discussions about a potential bid. “There were multiple factors involved. That’s also not to say that we wouldn’t be interested in future M&A, but we would have to do that in a very rational and disciplined way.”

As for any discussions about an imminent takeover of ITV itself, McCall said such speculation has existed for over a decade.

“What we have to do is create value and that’s what we’re focused on doing. So all the investments we’ve talked about, all the shifts we’re currently making, they make ITV a fitter, stronger business going forward.”

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.