From 2002, the ITV Network began to consolidate again. On 28 October 2002, the Carlton and Granada regions adopted the celebrity presentation package, which resulted in the regions being known as ITV1 at all times, with the region name only appearing prior to regional programmes. This look also marked the centralization of continuity in the Carlton and Granada regions to London, with the exception of Wales.
The pinnacle of ITV's consolidation was the merger of Carlton and Granada in 2004. The two companies had previously tried to merge twice before in the 1990s, however the government and competition laws prevented this from occurring. However, in October 2003, the Government announced that it would no longer prevent a merger from taking place, subject to safeguards being set in place to ensure the continued independence of SMG, UTV and Channel Television. Carlton and Granada finally merged at the end of January 2004 with the shares owned 32% by Carlton shareholders and 68% owned by Granada shareholders. The new company, ITV plc, was floated on the London Stock Exchange under the symbol 'ITV' on 2 February 2004. The new company owned all the ITV regions in England, Wales and the Scottish Borders. The choice of the name "ITV plc" was controversial, since it could imply that the company runs the entire network, and an agreement had to be reached with SMG, UTV and Channel before the name could be used.
The day of the merger was marked by significant changes throughout the ITV plc regions. All of the ITV plc regional news programmes now featured a new look in line with the national ITV News bulletins and the regional company logos were replaced officially with an ITV logo followed by the company name below - these began to appear on production captions and as part of other branded output, such as weather summaries. As a result of the merger, ITV plc was faced with a surplus of facilities it no longer needed. Following the merger of companies that were formerly rivals, studio and production facilities were replicated many times over, many of which were becoming costly to maintain due to age and difficult to justify following technological advancements. As a result, regional news moved into smaller offices and studio facilities were sold off. Anglia's separate studio facility was sold off as an independent studio with HTV's main studio in Cardiff having the same result. However, the axe fell on Tyne Tees' Newcastle studios and on Meridian's Southampton studio complex. Both broadcasters left their studios and were demolished, moving to smaller regional news bureaus. The reduction in the size of the organization and in the number of transmission centres has resulted in a number of job cuts.
Following on from previously, ITV plc reviewed their digital channel portfolio. In 2002 Carlton and Granada jointly bought the ITN News Channel from ITN and relaunched and renamed it the ITV News Channel. The service was still produced by ITN. The following year in 2003, the final Carlton owned channel Carlton Cinema closed; the channel had been struggling ever since the failure of ITV Digital. Following the success of ITV2, compared to the Granada and Carlton branded channels, a further channel ITV3 was launched. The channel replaced Granada Plus and aired archive programmes, notably drama. On 1 November 2005, ITV plc launched another new channel aimed specifically at men: ITV4. The channel became notable for airing programmes such as classic 1960s ITC series and alternative sports such as the British Touring Car Championship. The new channel featured a new look ITV logo, which was officially rolled out across the network on 9 January 2006. The new look was more coherent than previous and also included Channel Television, who voluntarily took the look. 2006 also saw the launch of the CITV Channel, which used the airspace previously used by the ITV News Channel which closed down in December 2005, and of the new service ITV Play which turned out to be controversial and closed down the following year.
ITV plc began to look at High Definition in 2006, when the company launched an experimental channel ITV HD. This service was primarily for airing the 2006 World Cup, to which ITV held the rights. The service became permanent in 2008 and showed its own schedule of programmes in HD acquired by ITV plc. The channel re-branded as ITV1 HD in 2009, but still broadcasting its own schedule of HD programmes, and launched as a full simulcast of ITV1 on 2 April 2010. The launch of the simulcast service saw the end of Men & Motors, which was closed down on 1 April 2010 to make room for ITV1 HD on other platforms. On 7 October that same year, ITV plc launched an HD simulcast of ITV2, entitled ITV2 HD and on 15 November 2010, the channel was joined by ITV3 HD and ITV4 HD, all launching on Sky only.
In June 2005 Ofcom, the channel's regulator since the demise of the Independent Television Commission, announced huge reductions in the licence fees payable by the Channel 3 contractors (and Five). This move reflects the significant shift towards digital viewing in the UK, and the British government's desire to switch off analogue television signals altogether by 2012. licence fees will fall further as the shift to digital continues. Ofcom has also significantly relaxed most of the remaining public service requirements on the ITV contractors; regional non-news output has been a significant casualty of these cutbacks, with most regions now broadcasting no more than two hours a week in this category. An experimental service, ITV Local, attempted to unite regional content through an on-line user experience that combined regional news, local programming and other features.
In September 2005, the ITV network celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a season of ITV50 programming that was run on the network, including a run down of ITV's 50 top programmes, a World of Sport retrospective, a seven-week Gameshow Marathon presented by Ant & Dec, the launch of an "Avenue Of The Stars", and most notably a five-part documentary series made by Melvyn Bragg, which chronicled ITV's history. The Post Office issued special ITV50 postage stamps. The regional companies owned by ITV plc also aired special regional retrospectives (even though none of them were themselves fifty years old), as well as using special ITV50 station identification. While Scottish Television, Grampian Television, and UTV aired the network ITV50 programming, they did not themselves air regional programmes of this sort, nor did they use the special identification. ITN also celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with special features in its programming.
In March 2006 it was announced by SMG plc that Grampian Television would become the latest ITV region to lose its own regional identity, as it adopts the brand name STV, used by Scottish Television. This brand, which will work similarly to the ITV1 brand in England and Wales, had previously been used by Scottish Television from 1969 until 1985.
In September 2007 the then chairman of ITV plc, Michael Grade announced huge cost-cutting plans for the company which would see the regional news programmes cut from 17 to 9. These plans saw many merges of news programmes including the merger of Central News East and West, Anglia East and West and Yorkshire North and South into one programme for each region. However most controversially were the merge proposals suggested covering two regions. These saw the merger of the West and Westcountry regions to form one programme from Bristol, the merger of the Meridian South, South East and Thames Valley to form a programme from Whiteley and one programme from Newcastle upon Tyne covering Tyne Tees North, South and Border regions. The new arrangement resulted in pre-recorded opt out segments in the main programme for some regions where regional news was mandatory, such as Meridian South and South East, and where programme crossed regional boundaries, such as Tyne Tees and Border. These changes took effect from February 2009, when Meridian began their pan-regional service. The plans also saw the end of the ITV Local on-line initiative, as regional cuts affected the service hard; the service closed down in 2009.
In 2008 all of the ITV plc regions operating licences were transferred to one company, ITV Broadcasting Ltd., who now operates all of the ITV plc regions. This essentially leaves ITV Broadcasting Ltd as the sole company producing and broadcasting programmes to the ITV Regions in England and Wales.
In November 2009 ITV plc gained full control of the breakfast broadcaster GMTV when the company bought the 25% stake of The Walt Disney Company for £18 million. They subsequently announced that GMTV would be closed and replaced with two new programmes in September 2010: Daybreak, a news and features programme, and Lorraine, named after presenter Lorraine Kelly and providing a platform for female debate. The official name of the company itself was changed to ITV Breakfast Ltd.
In 2011 another step was taken towards the unification of the ITV Network when ITV plc bought Channel Television.
Read more about this topic: History Of ITV