The new Chairman at ITV looks likely to make ITV1 totally free to air and the other channels ITV2, ITV3, ITV4 to go part of the Sky subscription, and require a Sky card to view.
It would also mean that the Spanish rebroadcasters (and other rebroadcasters) would also have to remove these encrypted channels from their line up, as they have had to do in the past few years.
New ITV chairman Archie Norman is expected to charge millions of viewers to watch all but the broadcaster’s main channel.
The ending of ITV’s days as a free-to-air broadcaster is likely to happen soon after the former Asda boss joins as non-executive chairman in January to replace Michael Grade.
As well as being likely to introduce pay-TV for digital channels ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4, Norman is set to cut costs, which could mean big job losses, said City sources close to him.
‘ITV is not very profitable, it does not pay a dividend,’ said a source close to Norman. ‘There is some way to go in improving business efficiencies. ITV needs the spring back in its step.’
The move to pay-TV is likely to come sooner rather than later. Despite outperforming rivals with hits such as The X Factor, ITV has suffered and expects advertising revenue to be down 12 per cent this year.
Subscription television businesses such as BSkyB have proved much more resilient. City sources said Norman believed it was imperative ITV changed from a free-to-air business.
ITV1 is likely to remain free-to-air as it offers advertisers a means of reaching a mass audience with a single programme.
The X Factor had 16.5 million viewers last weekend. ITV’s digital channels attract much smaller audiences – ITV2 peaked at 2.7m for Britain’s Got More Talent – and less advertising revenue.