It’s 10 months since Thames Television came to London.
What difference has it made?
To the London ITV audience?
It’s grown. Grown, for Thames’ evening programmes, by an average of 200,000 homes. That’s more than 14% up on last year.
The facts: Thames transmits to the London ITV area from Monday to 7.00 pm on Friday. In Spring last year before Thames began, audiences between 6.30 and 10.30 on those days averaged 1,309,280 homes*. This year, Thames has boosted the average to 1,497,600 homes.
Outside those peak viewing hours, the average audience for the same period in 1968 was 818,300 homes. This year the average Thames audience was 873,600 homes: and increase of over 6%.
So after less than a year, and despite a difficult start, Thames is consistently attracting more viewers than the Spring 1968 average:
*Comparisons over eight weeks ending 3 May 1968/2 May 1969
To London ITV programmes?
They’ve changed. To help win these bigger audiences, Thames has introduced new programmes to London in all three major fields: drama, light entertainment and features.
The Life and Times of Lord Mountbatten has been the most successful documentary series ever to appear on the screen. Three new light entertainment programmes – Max, Two in Clover and Father, Dear Father – have regularly appeared in the London Top Ten list of most popular shows. (Max, starring Max Bygraves, topped the list three times.) Of the dramatic series, Callan has been exceptionally successful; Frontier was described by a leading critic as “the most promising of all efforts by the new ITV companies”; and The Mind of Mr J.G. Reeder has already become one of London’s favourite programmes. Among the new plays produced by Thames to date have been the Premiere series of live “first nights” and the widely-praised productions of Noël Coward’s “Star Quality” and Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Uncle Silas”.
Report, the new one-hour current affairs series, has already had three programmes chosen for the National Film Archive. And Today, first ever local programme for the London ITV area, is watched in more than a million homes five nights a week.
They’re beginning to like us. Last year they mostly watched the BBC, but not any more. For example Magpie, Thames’ magazine programme for London children, quickly became so popular that it went national, twice weekly. After only ten months on the air it’s watched by more families than the BBC’s excellent Blue Peter.
Mothers like us too (ask them) because we make a really wide range of children’s entertainment, from Sooty and Once Upon a Time to Do Not Adjust Your Set and The Tingaree Affair. That’s why all Thames’ programmes for children are more popular than last year’s counterparts.
To viewers all over Britain?
There’s a new name for good television. Since Thames began, its productions have won more places in the National Top Twenty than any other company. These nationally popular Thames programmes have included This Week, Opportunity Knocks, Callan, Max, Life With Cooper, The Avengers, Mike and Bernie’s Show, Two in Clover, Armchair Theatre and many others. More than a quarter of Thames’ places in the list have been filled by entirely new programmes.
To the BBC?
It comes second. From Monday to 7.00 on Friday, London viewers can choose between Thames, BBC1 and BBC2. The programmes they like best come from Thames. Each week we make a private check on the ten most popular programmes in London during our transmission time. The latest figures, for eight weeks ended 2 May, show that Thames had 78% of London’s ten weekday favourites against the BBC’s 22%.
We don’t usually publish our weekday top ten. But that’s how it looks.
They’re getting more for their money. In terms of cost per thousand homes viewing, the latest available figures for eight weeks ending 2 May show that Thames’ peaktime rate gave an average cost of 19/1d [rounds to just under 95½p in decimal, £15.75 in 2018 allowing for inflation] per thousand homes – compared to 21/10d [rounds to about £1.09, £18 in 2018 allowing for inflation] in peaktime for the same period last year. The difference: 12½% cheaper on Thames.
(Because Thames’ peaktime rate covers an hour more than last year’s, the chart shows how the Thames cost compares with 1968’s 7.00 to 10.00 and 6.30 to 10.30. Thames is cheaper either way.)
To London’s skyline?
It’s altering. Thames’ new headquarter and colour studios are nearing completion close to the Post Office tower at Euston, ready for the start of colour broadcasting in November. From this new central complex, and from the riverside studios at Teddington, Thames will continue to produce outstanding programmes for London, for Britain and for the world.
That’s the promise we made ten months ago, and it’s one thing we haven’t changed.
Television House, Kingsway, London WC2.