Following the Television Act of 1954 which made commercial television in the UK possible, ITV first began broadcasting in 1955 on Channel 3 in the London area. By 1973 there were 15 separate Channel 3 regional broadcasting licences and each of the regional licences was run by a separate company.
The Broadcasting Act of 1990 allowed regional companies, under specific conditions, to merge for the first time. It paved the way for the consolidation of ITV and the first merger took place in 1994 when Granada bought LWT. By the new millennium Granada plc owned six regional licences, Carlton owned five, Scottish Media Group (SMG, now STV) owned two and Ulster and Channel remained independent.
The merger of Granada and Carlton became an obvious next step. The necessary changes in legislation were introduced by the Communications Act and the Competition Commission approved the merger plans. In February 2004 ITV plc, owner of 11 of the 15 regional licences, was born. Today ITV plc owns 13 of the regional licenses (acquired Channel TV in 2011 and Ulster TV in 2016) and sells advertising on behalf of all 15 licences, producing much of the programming broadcast on ITV channels.
Since the merger ITV has expanded its family of channels with the launch of ITV2 in 1998, ITV3 in 2004, ITV4 in 2005, CITV in 2006 and ITVBe in 2014. ITV also launched its first pay channel, ITV Encore in 2014.
ITV has built scale in creative markets since 2012, acquiring a number of production businesses in the UK, US and Netherlands as it grows an international content business. In addition, ITV has made a number of investments into ‘digital-first’ and US digital content companies as the business looks to expand its digital assets and exposure to new types of content and distribution. ITV’s larger acquisitions are detailed below.
ITV launches BritBox in the US, a Subscription Video on Demand service as a joint venture with the BBC service in the US as a joint venture with the BBC
ITV acquires 13th regional license Ulster Television
ITV acquires UK production company Twofour Group and production and distribution company, Talpa Media in The Netherlands
ITV Hub launches as the new home of on-demand
ITV acquires US production company Leftfield Entertainment
ITV Encore (first pay channel) launches
ITV launches company rebrand
ITV acquires UK production company The Garden
ITV acquires US production company High Noon
ITV acquires US production company Thinkfactory Media
ITV acquires UK production company Big Talk
ITV acquires its first US production company, Gurney Productions
ITV acquires 12th regional license, Channel Television
Digital channels launch in High Definition
ITV plc is formed owning 11 regional licenses
First digital channel, ITV2 launches in the UK
First merger takes place between Channel 3 licenses Granada and LWT leading the way for further consolidation of the remaining licenses
15 separate Channel 3 regional broadcasting licences were in existence, all run by separate companies
ITV began broadcasting in London on Channel 3