GMTV, the ITV breakfast broadcaster of which Disney has a 25% ownership, will receive a massive boost to its program budget after securing an annual US$50 million rebate on its yearly broadcast license fee.
The broadcaster, which leads the U.K. children’s market on Saturday and Sunday mornings with an average 40% share, has been strapped for cash since it wrestled the breakfast license from TVam in 1989. At that time, ITV licenses were awarded to companies that, having passed a basic quality threshold, bid the highest in a blind auction.
Although GMTV felt it had made a measured bid at that time, increased competition from Channel 4′s The Big Breakfast, the BBC’s preschool hit Teletubbies and new cable and satellite channels, has made its annual license payments look increasingly untenable in the face of rising programming costs.
The rebate has been sanctioned by U.K. regulator the Independent Television Commission on the condition that GMTV will commit extra sums to improving its programming. GMTV director of programs Peter McHugh says, ‘While the main focus of increased expenditure will be on the adult weekday program, the budget for children’s programs at the weekend is being enhanced.’
According to McHugh, the Saturday Disney slot, Diggit, will continue to carry the likes of Recess, Aladdin, Pepper Ann and Timon & Pumbaa. However, it will also feature new titles such as MouseWorks.
McHugh added that the ITC rebate will benefit GMTV’s ambitions in the emerging digital broadcasting environment. GMTV will be launching children’s programs on weekdays in its service on digital GMTV2. Currently, the analogue GMTV service has no kids shows during the week.