ITV's Fru Hazlitt Tells Us Why Television isn't Going Anywhere

ITVBe sprang to life last night - ITV's first new free-to-air channel for 10 years, promising a cornucopia of reality television including TOWIE, Real Housewives, and Ladies of London.

Earlier this month, Fru Hazlitt, ITV's managing director of commercial, online and interactive, delivered a passionate speech about the future of television; here's what she had to say.

Television meets a primal need for human bonding – and that’s why it’s not going anywhere.

That was the message from Fru Hazlitt at ITV Upfronts this month.

She set out the vision for ITV over the next year and beyond, at the event at London Television Centre.

“Across ITV we’re still on an exciting journey and we’ve still got tonnes to do,” she said.

“We’ve increased our non-spot revenues by 42 per cent. We’ve launched ITV Encore and we’re about to launch our first new free to air channel for nearly 10 years – ITV Be. We’ve also licensed our content to a number of new platforms so that we’re extending our reach.

“But crucially this has not meant turning our back on the huge creative and commercial opportunities that the ad-funded model brings. It’s still absolutely the engine that drives our business.

“Television remains an incredibly powerful advertising platform. Its unique ability to entertain audiences has not diminished. Of course, people now watch it across a wide range of platforms. The screen may be smaller, it may be curved, it may be 3D, it may even be a watch! But it’s still television.”

Fru spoke about the rise of new technology in advertising – and how it may not be the magic wand that some believe it to be.

“We often presume that because we can gather tons of data, we should; that because new forms of advertising can be developed, they will be so much better; because we can get a machine to buy ads, it will be more effective than a human being,” she said.

“We know that not all of these things will turn out to be true – in fact, we know very well that a lot of them will turn out to be bollocks.”

She said television was coming under major pressure from online models in terms of programmatic buying.

“Why would you hand over your brand to a machine that can’t even tell the difference between a human and a robot?” she asked.

People are adopting new technology – but they’re still using it to watch television. “Our audience does not differentiate between watching ITV on the big screen, or on their mobile; they’re just watching ITV,” said Fru.

“Their mobiles are for many people second televisions. We don’t really mind where our viewers view our content. This is about more viewers spending more time with ITV, pure and simple. Over the next year you’re going to be hearing a lot from us about this and the direction of our online business, which will include a complete revamp of ITV Player on mobile. It’ll be much more like a television – immediate and alive.”

She also gave the audience a glimpse into a brand new research study being conducted by ITV, called Primal Screen.

“The research suggests that television meets, head on, a primal human need for group bonding – further proof that prime television content is still a massive differentiator in this market,” she said. “It’s a place where your brands can both live, and come alive.

“The research really does raise some key questions – for example, can 10 million online viewers from a disparate audience, gathered over a number of countries, over a number of months, ever do the same for your brand as 10 million simultaneous TV viewers? We think not; and the research agrees.

“More than that, it really offers a word of warning to those who believe that any video view is the same as a quality video view – it’s just not. All audience views, and all media, were not born equal. It’s not the device that is the point of difference in how your customer is feeling when seeing your ads but the actual content they are viewing.

“The power of TV, and ITV in particular, is our ability to deliver high quality, original content that sits right at the heart of popular culture. At its best, television is all of us, together sharing an experience at the same time.

“We’re are proud of that – we are unapologetic about the fact that our content is what you spend time talking about with your families. We’re still part of the national conversation and after nearly 60 years, that relationship has only got stronger. 2015 is going to be a blinder.”

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