ITV buys Disney's stake in GMTV
Robert Weedon |
Thursday 26th November
It has just been announced that ITV is to buy Disney's 25% stake in GMTV for £22.25m, therefore making the breakfast television channel a wholly-owned subsiduary of ITV. This is a significant move, as it means that ITV plc finally have control over each formerly independent network franchisee on Channel 3 (other than STV and the little heard-of Channel Television).
ITV have been attempting to purchase The Walt Disney Company's stake in GMTV for years, and their 25% ownership was often a means of conflict between the majority ITV shareholder and Disney; for example when ITV plc wanted to launch the CITV channel, Disney blocked the move due to their ownership of the rival Nickelodian channel.
John Cresswell, ITV's chief operating officer (a man with a name that can't help but remind me of the narrator of Plan 9 from Outer Space) has said this morning in a statement: "GMTV is the gateway to the ITV day and a perfect fit with ITV's existing daytime programming. It represents an exciting opportunity to create a highly complementary daytime schedule offering great programming from 6am to 6pm." What this probably means is that GMTV will cease to be a recognisably different station, and one suspects be rebranded as "Morning ITV" or perhaps even "Breakfast ITV".
GMTV, or Good Morning TeleVision was launched in 1993 on the back of the Conservative Party's changes to the franchising structure in the 1990 Broadcast Act, after which GMTV outbid the incumbent franchisee TV-AM. It was backed by a consortium including Disney and STV, who sold their stake to ITV in 2004. Unlike Thames's handover to Carlton, though, the transition was fairly civilised. The two even wished each other good luck (probably because lots of the staff moved with them).
GMTV begun as a respected rival to the BBC's Breakfast News, offering a slightly less formal tone to their broadcasts - indeed, looking at the opening programme, there is a definite similarity with the BBC's Breakfast of today - that's a programme, not a meal, by the way. However, in recent years, and particularly after Eamonn Holmes defected to Sky's Sunrise programme in 2005, to make up for the lack of a celebrity presenter, GMTV have become more celebrity-orientated themselves, and have become increasingly known for their idiot-magnet competitions, which eventually damaged their reputation when their fraudulent phone-in scandal was exposed in 2008, after which they were fined £2 million by Ofcom.
So, in theory, ITV's purchase of GMTV could lead to a new format to replace the rather tabloidy, OK-magazine-style format of the franchise, or it could get worse, as demonstrated ITV's recent revamp of ITN's News at 10. We shall see.