As ITV have a quick reshuffle, including bringing in Peter Fincham (ex-BBC 1) for Simon Shaps as director of television, it’s worth recalling one key fact. ITV’s audience share has fallen inexorably since 1981 regardless of who was running the shop.
In 1981, ITV’s audience share was 49%. By 1991 it was down to 42%. A significant fall but not catastrophic. But after 2000 the audience share started to full more steeply. By 2001 it was below 30% for the first time, down more than 2.5% in a year. In 2006 it had fallen below 20% for the first time. Last month (January 2008) it was barely 19%. Two weeks ago (week ending 17th February) it was barely 18%. In other words, in 26 years ITV’s audience share was down from almost half (49%) to less than 20%.
Of course, all the channels have taken a hit since multichannel TV took off. In 1981 Channel 4 didn’t exist. In 1991 the four channels had 96% of audience share between them. Now it’s down to less than two thirds according to BARB. But of the five terrestrial channels there’s no doubt which has been hit most in the last few years. In 1996 ITV still had 35% of audience share. It has declined by almost a half in barely ten years. During that period, BBC 1 has gone down by one third (33.5%-22%, 1996-2007). The smaller channels have done much better: BBC 2 from 11.5%-8.5%, Channel 4 10.7%-8.6% and Five has actually risen from 2.3%-5.1% (1997-2007).