Friday, July 21, 2006

Celebrity Titanic: Love Island and the death of ITV

Love Island isn't a very good programme. Even the deluded who convince themselves that BB7 is worth watching know this. Love Island has managed to deliver the lowest ratings in ITV's history, at a time when success was vital for the survival of the company. It may well be that Fearne 'Jonah' Cotton's latest victim will be an entire television channel.

On the otehr hand, it's good news. It goes to show that it is possible to go broke underestimating the taste of the audience. You can imagine the production meetings when they're planning the series:

"The audience love BB when it's drunken fights and sex: so let's give them that all the time. And we'll make sure she get rid of the wrinklies and fatties, cos who wants to see them up close and personal."

Where did they go wrong? Part of it lies in the premise. Although BB's sexual antics achieved some notoriety, what people remember best was not the quick fumbles beneath the sheets, but rather the developing relationships over time between Paul and Helen (Dumber and Dumberer) or Preston and Chantelle, in which sex hardly featured.

ITV has a difficult task, of course. The BBC can roll out its audience-pleasers, safe in the knowledge that its worthy-but-unwatched and edgy-experimental other product can be shown at other times, on other channels. ITV has to get it right all the time, delivering a stream of viewers who can be sold off to advertisers; if noone watches, no money is made. That is why their scheduling is usually completely ruthless: they literally cannot afford to keep showing underperforming series. And why they have risked so much (£20 million) on creating a programme to take on BB and win. Except it hasn't. Even when potentially moderately exciting things happen on Love Island, nobody knows it: the press have lost interest, the public were never interested to start with. I can only assume that the programme hasn't been shifted to 12.30, when they know nobody will be watching, because they realise 1. that any replacement will also come off worse; and 2. an admission of failure of the ITV's trump card will immediately lead to collapse of the share price and a renewed takeover bid.

The sooner they 'fess up and switch to showing Crocodile Dundees and Die Hards in constant rotation, the better.

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