ITV is preparing to slash prime-time drama, cut stars’ salaries, show more repeats and axe 600 jobs in the biggest wave of cutbacks in the channel’s history.
Executive chairman Michael Grade blamed the ‘short-term horrors’ of the economic downturn for the company’s worst-ever annual results. ITV posted pre-tax losses of £2.73billion. The equivalent of $300 million AU will be slashed from the programming budget by 2011 in the biggest cuts in the broadcaster’s 54-year history.
Amongst confirmed casualties, there will be no new episodes of popular crime drama Wire in the Blood, starring Robson Green. Detective drama A Touch of Frost will finish when star David Jason retires this year.
Police series Heartbeat and its hospital spin-off The Royal will not be re-commissioned.
The Bill has been cut from two episodes a week to one in the UK and moved to a later time slot.
Stalwart soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale which pay their way are likely to survive but will see their budgets shrink and actors paid less.
ITV says it will instead focus on its “light” programs such as X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and I’m a Celebrity.
But the broadcaster will struggle to meet X Factor star Simon Cowell’s current £20million deal when it expires in December. Presenters Ant and Dec have also hinted they may not sign up for an exclusive deal with ITV again when their contract runs out this year.