ITV’s Future Unveiled: ITVX Is Changing The Rules

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Just imagine: A streaming platform that promises not only a wealth of content, but also a distinct flavour that separates it from the rest. A platform that is not afraid to take risks, push boundaries, and create a viewing experience that is as thrilling as it is engaging. Those are ITV’s plans for its young streaming service – ITVX.

At this week’s Wales Screen Summit, ITV’s Head of Drama, Polly Hill, offered interesting insights into the journey and vision of ITVX. As she shed light on the platform’s distinct character, it became evident that ITVX isn’t just here to compete with other streaming services – it’s here to redefine the future of ITV.

In her conversation, Hill also gave a sneak peek into the edgier face of ITVX, hinting at boundary-pushing dramas like The Winter King, Passenger, and Joan, that promise to redefine the television viewing experience, as UK viewers’ habits – and tastes – are changing.

Polly Hill, ITV head of drama left - Wales Screen Summit
ITV’s Polly Hill (Left), Jo Clinton-Davis (Photo: Wales Screen Summit)

ITVX, which launched late last year, is a free-to-watch (with adverts) service that replaced the long-running ITV Hub app as a full-fledged streaming destination.

The service launched with more than 10,000 hours of on-demand content, including 35 flagship shows, 200+ series and 250+ films, and has been growing since with monthly additions – some of which are exclusive to ITVX.

In addition to the on-demand content, you can also stream all of ITV’s live channels via the app, as well as several “themed” ad-supported live channels that are dedicated to a single series or theme (but not on Freeview Play devices and TVs).

ITVX February 2023 collage

ITVX is available on most of the streaming devices and Smart TVs sold in the UK (except for several older boxes and TVs), as well as on Virgin Media’s TV boxes, Sky Glass, Sky Stream – and, it was recently added to Sky Q as well.

While ITVX is a free streaming service first and foremost (with adverts), it also has an optional Premium tier that removes all the adverts – and also gives you access to most of the content from BritBox.

In addition, ITVX recently added Studio Canal Presents to its Premium tier – with 400+ films and TV shows.

ITVX Premium costs £5.99/month or £59.99/year.

ITVX: The Edgy New Face of ITV

As regular readers of Cord Busters surely know, the television landscape is evolving – and ITV is embracing this change with ITVX. Offering a more daring viewing experience than the linear ITV channel, ITVX is trying to carve out its own distinct identity in the world of UK entertainment.

At the Wales Screen Summit, which is being held this week, ITV’s Head of Drama, Polly Hill, shared some compelling insights into the platform’s direction – and how it’s already different from the more “traditional” ITV linear channels.

ITVX on TV man confused

Hill emphasized the importance of taking risks and exploring new territory in the evolution of ITVX. She mentioned, “Everything’s a risk. We’ve got to do stuff that’s different… As we put out more stuff, it’ll be clearer what that’s meant to be.”

The aim is to create a unique flavour of content that distinguishes ITVX from the main ITV channel, a goal that Hill predicts will become clearer in a year’s time. For now, they are keeping things open and experimenting with the types of shows they want to try.

Speaking on the challenges of the main ITV channel, Hill noted, “On the ITV main channel, you have to cut broad, have to get everyone to watch it, it’s proving harder and harder.”

She suggested that ITVX dramas might offer more specific appeal and that it’s a matter of finding a large enough audience. The distinction between ITV and ITVX might be more tonal than genre-based.

A Spy among friends damien lewis
ITVX’s A Spy Among Friends

A Different Vision for Storytelling

ITVX aims to explore different characters, different worlds, and different stories. According to Hill, the goal is to support the creative vision of producers rather than bending it to fit a preconceived shape.

Hill explained: “Our job is to have a view across the channel, to know where we all want to head collectively in 5 years’ time – but to buy a show from producers and support that vision rather than bend it into shape.”

ITV certainly seems pleased with the initial successes of ITVX – but those only represent the beginning of the journey.

Hill was optimistic about the platform’s future, stating, “We can definitely keep the pipeline flowing… It’s done incredibly well given that it’s new… but it’s got a long way to go.”

She also stressed that the content should be responsive to the audience’s changing viewing habits and appetites.

Younger Audiences and Upcoming ITVX Dramas

Hill also acknowledged the challenges and opportunities associated with younger audiences (ITV’s long-running children’s channel, CITV, is being shut down this year – in favour of a dedicated kids section on ITVX).

“We will struggle to do a very young teen show”, Hill said, “because we don’t have that relationship with that very young audience… But we definitely are trying to find shows that feel younger in their tone and a number have felt younger in their casting.”

Bold New Content In ITVX’s Pipeline

One of the exciting new projects on ITVX is the fantasy drama The Winter King, produced by Bad Wolf and filmed in Wales.

The Winter King is an upcoming historical fiction television series based on Bernard Cornwell’s novels, The Warlord Chronicles. The show stars Iain De Caestecker, Stuart Campbell, Jordan Alexandra and many others.

The Winter King - ITVX
The Winter King (Photo: ITVX)

The show represents a departure from ITV’s traditional programming, as Hill explained: “It’s something we wouldn’t have been able to consider for the main channel.”

This type of show may underline the experimental and boundary-pushing nature of ITVX, where shows that may not have fit on the main channel can find a home.

The Winter King is set to be released towards the end of the year, but the timing of its premiere remains to be decided, hinting at the flexible scheduling potential on ITVX. “It’ll be interesting to see where we put it, we haven’t decided yet… could be 10 pm on a Saturday,” said Hill.

Two additional upcoming ITVX dramas also demonstrate the platform’s edgier content.

Passenger, created by actor Andrew Buchan and produced by Sister Pictures, is a crime drama that promises to be different. “The moment it starts, you don’t quite know what you’re dealing with,” Hill said about the new show. 

Joan, written by Anna Symon and produced by Snowed-In Productions, is another promising series that is based on the life of a real diamond thief, and will star Sophie Turner (of Game of Thrones fame).

Sophie Turner
Sophie Turner (Photo: Deposit Photos / Popular Images)

Hill praised the series saying, “She’s an amazing strong female character who was going to succeed no matter what. Life had dealt her a tough hand. It’s got a wonderful tone.” 

A Platform for Change

So, ITVX is not just another streaming platform – but an avenue for the future of ITV, and how TV audiences (and their viewing habits) are changing in the UK and around the world.

“We [felt like we] were the last people for whom the live viewing really matters”, Hill said. “The main channel is not going anywhere. But you have to go with audience appetites – they don’t watch the channel in that way.”

ITVX app on a smartphone

Furthermore, Hill noted, “It’s all about not having just one hit to get the audience to content. You can make a brilliant show, and it feels like it disappears. Doesn’t all have to be Monday or Wednesday at 9pm.”

This shift away from traditional prime-time scheduling to a more flexible, on-demand model is another way in which ITVX is breaking from the mould – not to mention full series that drop down at once for a day of binge-watching.

With ITVX still in its early days (and some lingering technical issues), it remains to be seen whether the streaming platform can fulfil its potential – and how well it can compete with the American streaming services, and their deep pockets.

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