At the begging of 2014, ITV announced that it would be launching a brand new channel dedicated to drama – its first new channel in 8 years. Since then we’ve learned that it’s going to be called ITV Encore, and we now know that it can be found on Sky channel 123 from 9th June. Here’s a low-down on the new channel and some possible implications for the TV landscape:
What Can We Watch?
ITV Encore won’t be airing any new content in its first year of broadcast, instead focusing on repeats of ITV’s most successful dramas from the past few years. New commissions will follow in 2015 once the channel has bedded in. Broadchurch looks to be the centrepiece around which the channel will be launched, with other hit shows including DCI Banks and Poirot also featuring on the schedule. It’s so far unclear as to how episodes of these dramas will be phased. The likely scenario is that sequential series such as Broadchurch will be tested in 3 different formats: an omnibus style that sees all episodes broadcast during the same day, nightly episodes, and weekly episodes.
ITV introduces its new TV channel.
Who’s the Audience?
You need to be a Sky TV customer to watch ITV Encore both on TV and online, so that cuts out a significant portion of potential viewers from the very start. On top of this, the dramas selected for the channel do have an audience age skew of 40+. It’s also important to consider that a large segment of the target audience will have seen these drams at the time of their initial airing on ITV1 – will they want to see them again? All in all, is there really a large enough audience to merit the channel launch?
Even if this does provide a large enough pool of people, the future of TV is in on-demand content. It’s a valid point that older generations may not be as accustomed to using on-demand as their younger counterparts, yet huge leaps are being made in regards to making it available and easier to understand. It’s highly likely that the behaviour will be adopted by ITV Encore’s main target audience as the norm sooner rather than later. Does there really need to be a 24/7 channel dedicated to repeats of long-form dramas?
Sky has run Out of Home and aired its own TV campaign to support the launch of ITV Encore.
How Will It Be Added to Media Plans?
It’s unlikely that media agencies will single out ITV Encore on media plans as a place their clients must be, aside from perhaps the launch month when other ITV inventory will be priced at a huge premium due to the World Cup and impact figures will be hard to accumulate. Instead, it will likely be suggested as an add-on for brands that are a good fit for the channel’s audience profiling. I can definitely foresee a high likelihood of a clichéd deluge of pension, package cruises, and life insurance adverts filling up ad breaks. However, by having such a restricted audience profile, buyers of ITV Encore inventory will know exactly who they’re impacting. It’s almost like Sky AdSmart but without the uncertainty and extortionate costs. Both ITV and Sky are backing the channel launch in partnership with a significant amount of money behind a campaign with a broad media mix, which could reap rewards in terms of generating awareness of the channel. People will certainly know that the channel exists, but whether they tune in is another question entirely.
ITV gives an idea of the shows that will feature on Encore.
The True Test for ITV Encore
The true test for ITV Encore will be its BARB viewing figures this time next year. ITV’s Director of Television, Peter Fincham, has said the new channel will “give viewers the opportunity to revisit, or indeed to discover, a wealth of ITV drama from recent times.” I think the key word here is discover. Viewers are likely to get tired of the channel if the same drama repeats are shown over and over, and it’s the channel’s new commissions in 2015 that will either make ITV Encore a necessity for viewers or just another channel in the vast digital ocean.
It’s also interesting that ITV has chosen to launch the new channel in the same week that the World Cup begins. The sheer amount of matches that ITV will be broadcasting means that dramas will be squeezed out of the schedule throughout most of June and July. Non-football fans are likely to be politely nudged in the direction of channel 123 to satisfy their cravings – a move that could be an (unintentional?) stroke of genius.