ITV has announced a revamp of its evening schedule which will see its news program extended and top soaps get new slots.
According to plans, ITV News will air from 6.30pm to 7.30pm, with a greater emphasis on stories outside of London.
Emmerdale, which is currently airing in the 7:00 p.m. slot, will air half an hour later at 7:30 p.m. to make room.
And Coronation Street will air three-hour episodes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the channel announced.
This means that the soap will no longer be split into two separate half-hour slots with a different schedule in between, as is currently the case.
Other changes mean there will be a total of 90 minutes of news programming on the channel from 6:00 p.m.
ITV’s most popular soap operas will move to new back-to-back time slots “aimed at building a solid block of continuing drama”, the network said.
Emmerdale will continue to air a half-hour episode every weeknight, but its slot will move further into prime time and air at 7:30 p.m. instead of the current 7:00 p.m.
There are also changes for Coronation Street, which currently airs six episodes a week over three nights. These are normally split between a half-hour episode at 7:30 p.m. and another at 8:30 p.m.
According to the current schedule, a different program is usually scheduled between the two episodes of Coronation Street. Paul O’Grady: For The Love of Dogs and Bradley & Barney Walsh: Breaking Dad, for example, are among the programs scheduled in the 8:00 p.m. slot this week.
However, according to the new schedule, Coronation Street will air in one hour-long piece, from 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., interrupted only by regular commercial breaks.
ITV said this new “super soap opera” lineup means live viewers of Coronation Street and Emmerdale “can get their back-to-back soap fix”.
Announcing the changes, ITV’s chief media and entertainment officer, Kevin Lygo, said Coronation Street and Emmerdale are “fundamental to ITV’s success”.
“We know that, as with all dramas, viewers are increasingly watching them when and how they want. The new lineup means viewers can watch them live on TV in one go in one continuous soap opera, as well as on ITV Hub where they are regularly in the most watched shows each month,” he said.
The broadcaster also announced plans to increase news production on Monday, marking the biggest jobs expansion at ITV News in 20 years.
The newly expanded evening news programme, which will be presented by Mary Nightingale, will “emphasize more reporting outside of London… to reflect the whole of the UK”, ITV said.
The new evening program will mean a total of 90 minutes of news, with the half-hour regional program airing at 6.00pm, followed by the new one-hour ITV News at 6.30pm.
The changes mean ITV News will run until 7.30pm, putting it in competition with Channel 4 News and BBC magazine program The One Show.
ITV said 27 new journalists, producers and versatile cameramen/video editors would be recruited to join the program alongside existing ITV specialist editors and correspondents.
Correspondents will be hired in Wales, Scotland and the north of England, while a new social affairs reporter based in the north of England will also be among the new appointments.
When the email dropped at 10.30am this morning in the ITV newsroom there were plenty of smiling faces (after weeks of rumours). In recent years, the news has more often been about ‘managed decline’, with shrinking budgets, office closures and rounds of job cuts the norm, not just at ITN (which makes ITV News).
Instead, today the story is of investment in news, with the biggest expansion in airtime at ITV for decades and a round of appointments to come. The pressure is now on ITN to get it right; to ensure disgruntled Emmerdale fans and others who switch on to get primetime ITV programmes at 7pm aren’t turned off by what they’ll now see instead.
I understand the beefed-up evening news won’t be morphing into a news and discussion show (like Channel 4 News) or even (as is being suggested by some) into a magazine format (like BBC’s The One Show), but will, in the main, simply contain more on-the-ground reports and lives. I’m told the phrase that has been used in recent months in planning this is ‘getting Britain right’ and that the programme will focus primarily on UK coverage and on telling the story of Britain.
ITV’s decision is an acknowledgement of the value of live broadcasting in the age of the streamers (think of the wall-to-wall coverage Paul Brand’s scoop got recently, across the channels, as ITV News aired the video of the PM’s former Press Secretary Allegra Stratton being asked about rumours of a Christmas party held at Downing Street). The decision is also likely a sign that, in order to invest in primetime dramas like Trigger Point, which started last night on ITV, cuts need to be made in other parts of the primetime schedule. News can fill that hole.
The big question, of course, is what it means for ITV’s News at Ten – or ‘News at When’ as it used to be dubbed as it bounced around the schedule. Does an extended early evening news bulletin signal plans for a future scaling back of the later news bulletin? It’s a trend in the US, where the main news programmes are primarily aired in the early evening. That’s denied by ITV, but media watchers will be looking to see if anything else emerges from the channel in the months ahead.
Lygo said their evening news programme continued to attract large audiences despite rapidly changing viewing habits.
“We are very excited to be announcing this investment in what is an important public service strength of ITV – high-quality, impartial, trusted broadcast journalism – at a time when it could not be more important,” he added.
Evening news bulletins are regularly among the most-watched programmes on both BBC One and ITV.
On Friday (21 January), BBC One’s Regional News and Weather was the most popular programme of the day on the network, with five million viewers watching at 18:30.
ITV said its own evening news programme was watched by an average of 3.2 million viewers in 2021, with the show posting its highest viewing shares for a decade in 2020 and 2021.
Viewers in the Scottish STV licence areas will continue to receive STV News at 18:00 on Monday to Friday under the new plans, followed by the new hour-long news programme.
On Thursdays, STV’s current affairs programme, Scotland Tonight, will move from its usual 19:30 slot to 20:30.