The New Year heralded a brand new look to ITV. The new series of idents are clearly designed to challenge the conceptions light viewers may hold about the channel. Instead of safe and cosy they speak of creativity and innovation. But speculation the new look would bring radical change to UTV in Northern Ireland proved wide of the mark.
In October 2016, UTV – as part of its integration into ITV plc – adopted a new visual identity which seemed to be “ITV in all but name”. Since then the process has continued by stealth – trailers, though still rebranded, carry network voiceovers and more recently network sponsorship announcements with ITV references have been appearing as new contracts or campaigns take effect.
The new look on 1st January seemed like an opportunity to continue this process. Instead, the new year brought the return of the now familiar “winter set” of UTV idents, first seen in 2017. Other than adapted versions of the break bumpers and trailer endboards, there were no significant changes to UTV. So is this proof that ITV has no intention of fully rebranding the NI operation? Or a stay of execution?
If ITV has gone to the trouble of revamping UTV’s trails and bumpers, then a switch to the ITV versions in the immediate future would seem highly unlikely. But one thing to look out for will be whether the growing use of “ITV by stealth” continues in the coming weeks and months. For instance with the remaining UTV network sponsorship bumpers such as More Than’s sponsorship of showcase drama.
Another thought – unrelated to branding but significant in the bigger discussion – concerns the overnight gaming show Jackpot 247. For legal reasons it cannot be shown on UTV and Channel TV. If ITV were to reintroduce overnight programmes or replace this with Teleshopping as contracts run out, then it would mean the end of the last regional schedule variations which are not the direct result of actual regional programmes. National newspapers, for instance, would not need UTV variations in their listings 7-days-a-week. Small but not insignificant.
ITV’s new ident project is designed to last for the whole of 2019 – the first time a major channel has gone for a full rebrand with an apparent time limit. Themed idents or seasonal campaigns are a different matter. No doubt there will be speculation about ITV’s plans for 2020 though. If Project 52 works, do not rule out the possibility of it simply continuing or of the idents getting reused. So keep your eyes peeled.