Just when you think a story is over, an unexpected twist in the plot suddenly takes you by surprise. This week has seen a couple of unexpected developments on UTV.
A local voiceover has been used over the ident at 6pm to introduce UTV Live. And a UTV-branded break bumper has appeared – seemingly randomly – around some ad breaks.
The 6pm announcement is interesting. Generally the network announcer records a dedicated link for each region.
There have been “issues” with some of the announcements recorded for UTV’s local programmes – notably when Stormont was referred to as Stormfront.
Mistakes like these are totally unacceptable and hopefully steps have been taken to ensure errors of this magnitude never happened again.
Intriguingly though, the network announcer is still introducing other UTV output.
The break bumper is also intriguing. It is in line with the modified ITV branding introduced last summer and includes the tagline: “Part of ITV”. It is possible that it was produced at the same time as the ITV bumpers before the decision was taken to end UTV continuity.
The tagline is interesting. This has been part of UTV’s off screen branding since 2016 but was never used in continuity.
If the plan before the pandemic had been to move to ITV trailers, then bumpers with that tagline would have smoothed the transition.
So what’s going on?
Well – to stress – the end of UTV continuity did not mark an official rebrand of the station.
Maintaining a little UTV branding at no ongoing cost (unlike separate trails or an announcer’s wages) helps ensure that people realise the local operation is alive and well.
ITV Wales bumpers remained for some time after local continuity ended. Channel also had its own bumpers for local ad breaks and branded idents at key junctions until 2013.
There can be little doubt though about the overall direction of travel. It is hard to imagine that the ITV masterbrand won’t supersede the remaining use of UTV’s own brand whenever refreshes happen in the future.
One day, the news or weather will get a refresh across the network – another day will see a new presentation package. At some point in the future, the corporate logo will be changed again or significantly modified.
And despite this little resurgence of local branding, satellite viewers are now seeing more of the ITV name – UTV+1 was recently replaced by ITV+1 for the Granada region.
Retiring a widely recognised brand requires TLC. ITV has always treated the UTV name with care even if it was hard not to think it still planned to build its own brand in NI. It would have been easy – but potentially counterproductive – to impose its own brand back in 2016 overnight.
UTV is essentially now in the same position as an English region between 2002 and 2006 or Wales and Channel up to 2013. Watch this space…
PICTURED: UTV break bumper. COPYRIGHT: ITV.