"Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria couldn't have invented a crazier system"
Harry Turner, Chief Executive of TSW
"Franchise applications are recognised to include an amount of window dressing"
ITA, 1969

Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria's Guide to Winning or Losing an ITV Franchise

What follows should not be considered financial advice.
Any resemblance to tactics used by real ITV companies is purely coincidental.


It is hard to break in against the tenant, even if their performance has been poor. The following tactics can be used:
  1. Make sure you are not too rude about the current contractor. Just indicate that you think you could do better. Remember, your opponent might lose to you, yet win a different franchise, and could block your programmes later.
  2. Study your opponent carefully. Don't concentrate on the weaknesses; make sure that you cover the strengths too, so that the ITC doesn't have any special circumstances to consider.
  3. Pack as many well known names into your bid as you can. If you can't name them, imply that you have several who cannot divulge their names at the moment. It doesn't matter that you will be dispensing with them after six months.
  4. If you are not based in the local area, try to get to the independent producers first. If you can't, promise to set some up.
  5. If there is a minority language in your area, include a programme to be broadcast in it. This includes any local incomprehensible dialect of English.
  6. If you are going for one of the medium-sized areas or larger you can include plans for network programmes. Smaller companies should include some vague wish to do so "if allowed", but should stress the local aspects.
  7. Try to include another current franchise holder in your bid. This is not as difficult as it might sound, since most of the companies hate each other really, and see this as a way of getting back at one another. Don't let this violate the first point though.
The bidding. Just use bluffing tactics; if your consortium boasts John Paul Getty II and Richard Branson bid as low as you dare, tempting the others to blow themselves out bidding too high. On the other hand if you are a rag-bag of unknowns bid high as your only chance.


Incumbents should be in a strong position, since they ought to possess the greatest knowledge about the potential of their area. There are many pitfalls to avoid to counterbalance this inherent advantage.
  1. Many companies, particularly the bigger ones, forget that they are supposed to be serving the needs of a particular area. This means they can be criticised for their lack of local identity. Launch a campaign in your local newspapers urging people to write into you telling you what you should be doing. Invite some Lord Mayors and Lords Lieutenants to a gala dinner and make them feel important. Ensure that you include all those on the fringes of your area, in particular if they have a transmitter covering their town or city that they might try to get the ITC to switch to an alternative area.
  2. Tie up as many of the independent producers in your locality as you can, thus preventing any incomer poaching them. Promise them prime time slots, which you can claim later that the ITV Network Centre won't give you after all, and then compensate them with a half hour at 2am.
  3. Make sure you time your really expensive glossy programmes to coincide with both delivery of the bid, and the time that the result is announced. The latter is especially important if you want to rely on special circumstances.
  4. Play on your past, even though the franchise round is supposed to be about the future.
  5. If in a country other than England, curry favour of your national ITC member.
  6. Smaller areas should not get sudden delusions of grandeur, promising to produce the next Moll Flanders, but stress coverage of the local obscure festival.
  7. Don't challenge the authority of the ITC - at least until you know that you have lost.
The cash bid tactics are varied. Hopefully you have knocked out your competition by signing them up, or splitting your region into at least three sub-regions for local news purposes to make a newcomers' life difficult. If this hasn't proved possible you have the high or low strategy to follow:

HIGH: A straight forward bid-as- much-as-you-dare. Divest yourself of a large amount of your staff. Sell all your company Rolls-Royces apart from your own. Keep your fingers crossed that you haven't overdone it. If it seems too much later, just plead for it to be reduced, claiming that you didn't know about all these new competing cable and satellite services (even if you have invested in some).

LOW: Reason that your competitors will bid high and be considered to have a poor financial plan. Don't go to cheeky extremes, so that the use of special circumstances isn't made to look too much of a financial loss.

MAD King Ludwig of Bavaria