There are signs that some ITV News branding may be about to appear on UTV Live. A brand-building promotion for ITV News screened in Northern Ireland features a UTV reporter. And a graphic branded ‘ITV News UTV’ lurks on the ITV website.
So what might be going on?
UTV Live at 6pm is one of the most highly rated regional news programmes in the country. It gets a substantially larger audience share than most other regional programmes across the network and gets more viewers than BBC Northern Ireland’s Newsline.
There is no doubting that it is a successful programme though, naturally, some will prefer the BBC’s approach.
Any decision to tweak the brand will not be made lightly.
Since 2016 UTV Live has had a similar look to other ITV regional programmes but has not included explicit ITV News branding.
But there is more to the news service than television. The ITV News website and app are both vital too.
Consistent branding is important – it ensures the reader is aware of the source of the information, so vital in an age of misinformation and fake news.
UTV is a recognised and trusted name in Northern Ireland but the brand has not been developed since ITV bought the station. At the same time, ITV is clearly trying to develop the ITV News brand at present.
In other ITV plc regions ITV News is the masterbrand for both the national and regional news services. A name like iTV News UTV – on screen and on Twitter – would make the implicit connections explicit and seem like the best of both.
It is crucial to note that such a change may not happen or happen very quietly by stealth. This could all be unfounded speculation.
While moving to ITV continuity and trails may have saved money and workload, changing the news branding would not.
Rather it will happen if the company believes there may be positive advantages – such as encouraging traffic to the website or the app or building the company’s name for news. (ITN as a brand is fondly remembered by many but it’s harder to think of the clear, unique values of the ITV News brand even after 21 years. What does the brand stand for which differentiates it from, say, BBC News, Sky News or Channel 4 News?)
But even if no changes happen soon, I would bet they will happen whenever the next brand refresh across the network takes place.
The look of the regional programmes in ITV plc regions has hardly changed since 2013 so some revamp (even a purely evolutionary one) within the next year or two would seem quite likely.
PICTURED: UTV Live studio. COPYRIGHT: ITV plc.