New game plan for ITV soccer show


ITV is planning to revamp its new flagship football show The Premiership after a barrage of criticism from fans and disappointing ratings.

The channel's controller of sport, Brian Barwick, is reported to have admitted that the highlights show has room for improvement.

In a further embarrassment, it emerged that ITV stands to lose thousands of pounds in advertising revenue unless audiences for the programme get bigger.

The 7pm edition of The Premiership, ITV's version of the BBC's Match of the Day, was launched on Saturday and beaten in the ratings by BBC1's quiz show The Weakest Link.

Only 4.3 million fans tuned in to the new programme - fronted by Des Lynam - compared with 6.7million viewers for the Anne Robinson quiz.

According to insiders, Mr Bar-ick had been hoping for an audience of at least five million.

He is reported to have said: 'In certain places it didn't work. I'd give it eight out of ten.'

Sources said ITV would wait a couple of weeks before introducing changes, but there was no doubt something had to be done.

An insider said: 'There's a feeling that Des is not having enough time to open out the conversation because of the adverts and there's a feeling he should have more time with Terry Venables and Ally McCoist.'

If the ratings do not increase, ITV could lose out on thousands of pounds of advertising revenue.

According to Media Planning Group broadcast director Andrew Canter, ITV was offering 30-second spots to advertisers at £50,000 a time. Including spots before and after the show, the 7pm edition of The Premiership featured 13 minutes of advertising, potentially earning ITV £1.3 million.

But the amount advertisers end up paying depends on how well the show rates with audiences. With the channel hit by an industry-wide advertising slump, ITV will be keen to maximise revenue.

Fans were mostly concerned about the amount of match coverage. Many said there was less footage of games than on Match of the Day and too much studio talk, interviews and features.

One fan told ITV's soccer web-site: 'The quality of footage was better on the BBC. The Premiership has ten minutes of footage of big games followed by five minutes of adverts.'

ITV denied claims that it aired only 28 minutes of match footage. An ITV spokesman said it had screened 37 minutes.

He said the BBC was wrong to claim it used to screen 56 minutes on Match of the Day and the figure was closer to 48 minutes.

The spokesman said: 'This is the first programme out of 32. Every programme looks at itself and reexamines itself. As for the advertising, viewers are used to watching most of their television programmes with adverts.

'Many viewers watch football on digital channels that show more advertising per hour than we do on ITV1.

'All our ad breaks meet the rules set by our regulators, the Independent Television Commission. The breaks on The Premiership followed our regular pattern.

'The Premiership will continue to show the best football action, opinion,comment and analysis every week. It has made a good start and this was only the first programme of the season.'

ITV poached rights to show Premierhsip matches from the BBC in the summer in a three-year, £183 million deal.