Jeremy Clarkson’s “awful” comments about Meghan Markle have had “no washover onto the ITV brand,” according to CEO Carolyn McCall.
Addressing the now-disgraced Sun column from the Who Wants to be a Millionaire? host this morning, McCall said she believed her team had “handled it well.”
Clarkson is contractually committed to one further series of ITV format Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, a show he has been hosting for the past five years, and ITV is very likely to drop him after filming has ended, although McCall stressed that “neither Who Wants to be a Millionaire? or Jeremy Clarkson have been cancelled by ITV.”
“We’ve handled it well and been very clear,” she added. “We have said his comments were awful and I don’t think there has been any washover onto our brand.”
Deadline revealed in January that McCall had written to a UK MP saying “there is no place on ITV” for Clarkson’s comments, following his mid-December column that said the former Top Gear host “dreamed of the day when [Markle] is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds chant ‘Shame!’,” in a callback to a Game of Thrones scene.
He is also likely to be dropped by Amazon Prime Video once the current season of Clarkson’s Farm finishes filming and the UK press watchdog is investigating the column, which was swiftly deleted by Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid newspaper, although only after the damage had been done.
McCall was addressing the press at the unveiling of ITV’s 2022 full-year results and she also turned to the future of formats Love Island and Big Brother.
Her Programs Boss Kevin Lygo defended a small drop-off in viewers for the recent winter Love Island edition by saying he was still “very happy” with the ratings, which regularly reach the 3M mark overnight, while two-thirds of viewing comes from young people.
“In a more competitive environment we’re very happy and getting 3M per night is still an extraordinary phenomenon,” said Lygo. “We are not panicking.”
On Big Brother, which is due to air in the Autumn, he said the show will be more “interesting, intelligent and upmarket” than other reality shows while retaining “what it was like in its golden period.” Big Brother has been on British TV for more than two decades and ITV is its third network.
McCall was speaking as ITV posted a profit fall of 12% but said she is confident of a return to growth despite content investment on new streamer ITVX increasing from £20M ($24M) to £160M ($191M) in 2023.
This is due to the “virtuous circle” that more ITVX shows will create, explained McCall.
She pointed to increased digital advertising as shows air on ITVX months before being given a linear window, along with the fact that around two-thirds of that content will come from ITV Studios, which can then be sold around the world.
McCall said digital advertisers’ response to ITVX, which hosts the likes of Helena Bonham Carter-starring Nolly and upcoming Carrie Grant biopic Archie, had been “fantastic.”
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