Britain has the talent and innovation to be digital leaders, says ITV boss


ooking back over London Tech Week it is very clear that almost all businesses across the UK economy are deeply affected by technology which throws up significant opportunities as well as challenges.

The media and entertainment industry has seen a huge amount of change with technology disrupting how programs are distributed and decades of entrenched ways of doing things. Technology has put Smart TVs at the center of this content explosion and has led to changes in consumer behavior where viewers can choose when they watch. It has also led to the ability to serve advertising in a highly targeted way.

Consumers have benefited enormously from the vast choice they now have of programs.

But this change has meant that one business model, so long established, has had to shift and adapt and embrace new models for getting programs to viewers and engaging them as the competition for audiences has intensified.

In response to this technology driven change tsunami, ITV launched its More than TV strategy in 2018 with digital transformation at its core. With a digital foundation now firmly in place, and new capabilities embedded in ITV, we have recently announced a further step change to this strategy – the launch of a new, free streaming service, ITVX.

Coinciding with Tech Week, we announced further details of ITVX which is due to launch later this year with a choice of more than 9,000 hours of brand new series, cult classics, documentaries and films. It will have a fresh content drop every week which will be exclusive to the service.

Supercharging streaming is just one element of our involvement in the tech ecosphere – data and analytics now underpin all aspects of ITV’s strategy.

The second area of ​​real transformation is in our offer to advertisers and commercial partners.

In the last 18 months we have rolled out Planet V – our proprietary programmatic platform for premium video advertising. This is now operating at scale and has become the UK’s second largest operator in this space behind Google.

That helps explain why ITV attracted almost a hundred new advertisers to TV for the first time last year – the majority of whom are digital brands.

The third area taking advantage of technology to become more efficient and productive is our global production business – ITV Studios.

It has doubled sales to the fast growing streamers and is currently looking at moving the entire life cycle of content management to the cloud from editing and distribution to access and storage

And of course, the way we work is changing too – with data informing more of our decisions across our business, particularly in how we understand viewers, what products and programs we offer them and how we reach and engage them.

We have set up a data and analytics center of excellence and have invested in our cloud-based capabilities throughout ITV.

As many organizations know, the demand for those with technology, data and insight skills is overheating the market.

In fact, such is the pressure on companies to improve their recruitment in this field that several of ITV’s successful in-house technology recruitment team have themselves been poached by rival businesses.

It’s against this backdrop that we welcome the publication of the Government’s new UK Digital Strategy at London Tech Week.

The Government’s strategy is a good start but we need the UK education sector at all levels to pivot towards these skills.

Launching a Digital Skills Council to bring business together with Government and education to make sure those skills are available feels like a valuable place to begin and ITV is happy to contribute and participate in this as without these skills transformation of British businesses slows down dramatically and the very difficult goal of Britain increasing its productivity is set back even further.

I would like to see the Council really focus on how to increase diversity within the tech industry too – there are far too few women and far too narrow a range of backgrounds in it.

Research also shows that even relatively young people wrongly believe they are too old to pursue a career in technology.

We need more role models that a wider range of people can relate to and the government needs to continue to fund reskilling and upskilling to encourage companies to do this at scale and provide new entrants with a route into the roles that businesses like ITV are already creating .

How else can British business compete in the market for talent?

It’s clear from ITV’s experience that the employer brand and its purpose and values ​​helps drive recruitment.

We have found it essential that we are seen to be living our purpose.

People expect the organization they work for to have a purpose beyond profit and to share their values.

They want the company they join to be relevant and relatable to employees, open to their questions and input. We have also found that many are looking for flexible working – and this is especially true when recruiting millennials.

They are as likely to ask about a company’s gender pay gap or climate action strategy as its benefits scheme.

Those joining ITV talk about our work in mental health such as Britain Get Talking – the nation’s most recognized mental health campaign – and our work on diversity and inclusion both on screen and behind it.

They tell us they are also interested in us because we continue to both reflect and shape culture and society with entertainment shows like Love Island, I’m A Celebrity and The Masked Singer, dramas like Trigger Point and The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe and of course our award winning News and Current Affairs programs.

And it’s not just recruitment.

We know that it’s at least as important to develop and retain talent and to provide skills training for all.

We also have a range of different mentoring and coaching schemes for our people at different levels because we know these improve performance and retain talent

80% of all jobs currently advertised in the UK require digital skills.

And even more noteworthy, it’s been forecast that over 80% of the UK’s workforce in 2030 are already in work today.

So we all need to upskill our existing workforce. ITV is actively working with technology partners to expand our tech skills training.

There is no question that the shortage of key digital skills is a challenge but despite this I remain optimistic.

We are doing exciting and innovative tech work and transforming our business at peace, and this is hugely attractive to the tech community.

British businesses can be smart, agile and fast moving.

The fact that Britain produces a Unicorn every 11 days shows that we have the talent and innovation to be leaders of this digital revolution.


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