ITV has dropped a huge clanger by not appointing former Sky boss Tony Ball as its new chief exec. Yes, his reported £30 million pay and incentives package does seem at odds with the current belt-tightened business environment, and yes, his ‘Millwall school of management’ was always controversial and cost him friends in high places. Ball’s apparent demands to hand pick the next non-executive chairman of ITV – to replace outgoing exec chairman Sir Michael Grade – may have put a little too muc power in his back pocket.
Yet Ball’s days at Sky are fondly remembered in the City. Under his four-year leadership Sky, 39.1% owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, doubled its subscriber numbers to seven million and became the leading player in commercial television, largely thanks to his policy of exclusive rights to increasingly popular Premier League. And crucially, Ball remains among the few calibre candidates capable of addressing ITV’s biggest problem – reducing the broadcaster’s reliance on advertising revenue. That challenge still remains but whoever the eventual appointment is, they’ll need to rely on more than X-factor to turn ITV’s fortunes around.