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ITV plc


ITV plc is a British media company based in London, England. It holds 13 of the 15 regional television licences that make up the ITV network, the oldest and largest commercial terrestrial television network in the United Kingdom. The network, which is branded ITV by ITV plc, has vied with BBC One for the status of the UK's most watched channel since the 1950s (a crown it lost in 2005).

ITV plc was the result of a merger between Granada and Carlton following the various mergers between the companies of the ITV network that had taken place from 1993 when the ownership rules were relaxed.

The idiosyncrasies and business model of the future ITV plc operation can be found in the way these new conglomerates operated their franchises. Carlton re-branded all of its stations with its own name, creating a single identity across the whole expanse of its territory. By contrast, Granada and United, while keeping the franchisees names, centralised their continuity departments Granada in Leeds and United in Southampton. All three, however, merged the network production operations of their franchises, creating Carlton Productions, Granada Content and United Productions.

By the end of the 1990s, there were three dominating owners of the ITV franchises in England and Wales: Carlton Communications, Granada plc and United News and Media. In 2000, after an aborted merger attempt with Carlton, UNM decided to leave ITV and Granada bought all the UNM franchises, but sold HTV to Carlton in order to comply with the permitted audience percentage covered by a single broadcasting interest. It kept the production arm of HTV, however, renaming it Granada Bristol and moving it out of Bath Road to a new, smaller office in Whiteladies Road (near the BBC). This arm of the company closed in 2006, following later rationalisation of ITV's production operations. The last remaining independent ITV franchise in England and Wales, Border Television, had been bought by Capital Group in 2000, and was sold on to Granada in 2001, with Border's radio assets being retained by Capital Radio plc.

Prior to the merger, and despite being rivals within ITV, Granada and Carlton had already been involved in several joint ventures, including the digital terrestrial television operator ITV Digital that went bankrupt, and collapsed in 2002. They also owned the digital channel ITV2, which had launched on December 1998, and 65% of the (re-branded) ITV News Channel, previously owned by ITN and was originally launched as the ITN News Channel. As well as consolidating its (now 40%) shareholding in ITN itself, the newly merged company was able to buy the final 35% stake in the ITV News Channel from ITN's original partners NTL in April 2004. In November the same year, and following a frantic last-minute deal with BSkyB to buy its half of the Granada Sky Broadcasting joint venture, they launched the digital channel ITV3, replacing Granada Plus which ITV plc closed down on satellite and cable. A year later they launched ITV4. However, due to multiplex issues (and the fact that it was losing money) the ITV News Channel controversially had its hours on Freeview reduced, and was finally closed down on 23 December 2005, with its Freeview space being taken over by replacements ITV4 and CITV, which launched in November 2005 and March 2006, respectively.

The company then entered into a series of disposals of non-core activities: in March 2009 the company sold its investment in Friends Reunited (a website dedicated to reunited former school friends or colleagues in a number of countries) which it had acquired in December 2005. Also in May 2009 the company sold Carlton Screen Advertising (the largest cinema advertising business in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and now known as Wide Eye Media).