ITV's Peter Fincham on why the broadcaster didn't chase football rights and its 'channel defining' entertainment shows

ITV director of television, Peter Fincham, admitted that it was not a "wise use of our budget" to chase football rights, after it lost the Champions League from 2015 to BT Sport.

"I'm not sure any terrestrial channel had such a rich programme of football and we could afford to lose some," he said, whilst speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. "There's an arms race between BT and Sky and it was not a wise use of our budget to chase that...how we keep the male audience is an interesting challenge and I haven't got the answer. We do have a rather large male audience on ITV4 which broadcasts a lot of sport but of course I want to get them to the mainstream channel."

In his 10th 'Meet the Controller' session at the Festival Fincham spoke at length about the perceived lack of risk taken by the mainstream channels. "There's an idea that risk naturally exists only on BBC Two and Channel 4 but it's different in mainstream....viewers don't sit there on a Saturday and think 'has the controller taken a risk?', they're just thinking 'is it entertaining?'."

Choosing 'Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway' as his 'channel defining' show, Fincham explained: "There is nothing to be embarrassed about a channel defining programme being Ant & Dec, there's a snobbery around risk...we rested the show for a couple of years which is risk, we're bringing back 'Sunday Night at the Palladium which is a risk because people may not want it back. The word risk is used and overused to the point it requires definition...it's like when people say with Downton Abbey 'you must have known all along', no, it was a bloody great risk."

With the X Factor poised for a return next weekend with Simon Cowell back at the helm Fincham admitted he was "delighted" Cowell was returning but didn't want to "put any pressure on it".

He added: "My personal belief is that lifespan of entertainment juggernauts is long. They take up space and budget...it's often thought that the natural curve of entertainment shows is to go up and the down, and that's not the case. Look at Strictly and I'm a Celebrity, they've both dipped and went back up."

Of newly launched breakfast offering 'Good Morning Britain', which is still losing out on the ratings to BBC One despite pinching its presenter Susanna Reid, Fincham said he "expected the audience to move quite slowly" and that he wasn't expecting an "overnight transformation". When pressed by interviewer Kirsty Wark about the fact he'd said the same glowing things about the ill-fated Daybreak - fresh, different, vibrant - he accepted that the channel never quite got Daybreak "right" and that when it came down to it the show "didn't really work".

On closing Fincham was questioned by the audience about ITV's decision not to show the first Independence Referendum debate south of the border to which he said the first showed there was an "appetite" for it outwith Scotland but it wouldn't be right for it to be shown on ITV during peak evening viewing time.

"At ITV we don't have the equivalent of a BBC Two to show it between 8pm-10pm. To show it on the main channel wouldn't be right for us," he said, but added that the next debate would be aired on itv.com and on the main channel at 10:35pm.

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