The continuing erosion of the UTV brand

Updated: 7th October 2019.

If ITV is genuinely committed to fully preserving the UTV brand name in the long term then it needs to get its finger out.

Today UTV viewers have seen:

  • ITV Rugby World Cup coverage – complete with an ITV Sport DOG;
  • ITV News;
  • ITV National Weather;
  • Free Willy – sponsored as an ITV Movie.

Tomorrow comes ITV Racing, while many dramas and travel documentaries now have ITV-branded sponsor bumpers. Until recently, sponsorship announcements were always remade to remove ITV references – this still happens on STV.

ITV’s mental health promotions are also running on UTV. While of course this is a valuable initiative in its own right, there is also a degree of brand building. It’s part of their More Than TV corporate and brand strategy. It’s interesting that they chose not to rebrand the campaign (it’s being run in promo time – not in ad breaks).

All of this means the UTV name is confined to continuity, trails and local programmes – but even here a few things seem to be happening by stealth. A significant minority of continuity announcements of late, especially over end credits, haven’t mentioned a channel name. Meanwhile a couple of recent documentary series made by an independent production company were copyrighted to ITV Broadcasting.

ITV’s deal to buy UTV in 2016 included the brand. It would seem unlikely that they would want to completely kill the name – after all, even names which make no sense without a knowledge of ITV’s history, like Granada and Meridian, live on in regional news names.

‘ITV NI’ throws away the brand heritage, while ‘ITV Ulster’ or ‘ITV Ulster TV’ risks opening a can of worms in some quarters.

But the amount of ITV branding and referencing, whether by stealth or design, increasingly means the idea that UTV viewers are “unfamiliar” with the ITV brand is something of a dubious concept.

ITV network’s current ident package is set to continue beyond its initial 52-week run. It isn’t known whether the idea of commissioning different artists to interpret the company logo has now become permanent or if it has simply been extended pending a permanent refresh.

Out of vision, UTV’s two surviving announcers have lost much of their profile and personality. Julian’s camp introductions to Coronation Street have become irregular of late. From a viewers’ perspective, all they bring now is heritage or the fact a Northern Irish voice provides an added local flavour to the channel.

So is all this a strategy or simply about stealth movements – insignificant in isolation but possibly making a particular outcome inevitable?




Posted by Andrew Nairn

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