ITV rejiggers online: Pembrooke out, more redundancies

With its pay-for on-demand TV player nearing release and its YouView era about to begin, UK commercial broadcast leader ITV is restructuring its online division, with a change in leadership and likely job losses. “ITV staff were told on Thursday that cost-cutting changes could put 40 jobs at risk in the 100-strong office. It is understood that the bulk of the jobs under threat are editorial positions. Staff have entered a four-week consultation period on the cuts.”

Online and on-demand director Robin Pembrooke is leaving. Digital news, sport and weather head Julian March is becoming online director. ITV calls it a “new” role, but it is a replacement of sorts amid the cutbacks. “March outlined plans to split the broadcaster’s online division into three areas: online products, editorial and business planning.”

Under Pembrooke and the team he assembled, ITV’s online products have been notably turned around for the better – from the bad days of awkward websites and poor Silverlight streaming, to savvier, lighter-weight sites, second-screen social strategies and a growing business selling pre-rolls against catch-up TV through ITV Player.

“Our online strategy is improving from a pretty difficult and poor start point,” CEO Adam Crozier acknowledged in February 2012. ITV spent £7 million in 2011 improving ITV Player and preparing for its Pay Player.

Now a further strategy is coming in to view. ITV, which, under Crozier, has wanted to start charging viewers for some content, says its forthcoming paid version of ITV Player is in “final consumer testing” with around 5,000 trialists. Users would pay to watch shows online ahead of TV transmission plus to watch shows older than 30 days. Also, ITV Player will this month be carried on YouView boxes. ITV recently contracted PayWizard to facilitate payments.

Pembrooke was hired as MD in 2010 by ITV consumer and online MD Fru Hazlitt, renewing the pair’s prior working relationship at GCap Radio.

March joined Pembrooke’s team in mid-2011 from being Sky News’ digital head. He recently relaunched the ITV News site as a vogueish stream of constant live updates.

Pembrooke had hired BBC Online exec James Mickelthwaite in January 2011 to lead an ITV on-demand team. And he added another BBC employee, Richard Williams, as multi-platform commissioning head a month later.