Drama and Comedy
The ITV Drama Commissioning team is a streamlined department that works to a collective drama brief across ITV1 and ITVX. The current brief comes from Polly Hill who is Head of Drama at ITV.
Drama at ITV is brilliantly populist and unashamedly mainstream. As a result, programming should have broad appeal while still feeling authored and British. Prospective shows should resonate with contemporary Britain. They should ask questions about or discuss the world we live in today but always aim to do so in ambitious, entertaining and surprising ways.
Drama on ITV1
Drama series on ITV1 should offer audiences accessible, propulsive stories in a genre they recognise but do so in an original or subversive way. Shows must surprise and entice by being distinctive from other offerings, but must also satisfy audiences with unexpected and compelling resolutions.
We are always looking for a fresh take on genres like police procedurals, crime thrillers and contemporary mystery thrillers. However, any prospective show that sits within these competitive spaces must have substantial points of difference that clearly separate, and elevate it, from the rest.
That said, drama on ITV1 is not limited to crime. We welcome ideas outside of this area that are contemporary, relevant and entertaining from the outset. Prospective stories must still allow a broad audience to come to and understand them quickly but can then take that audience somewhere completely unexpected or morally complicated.
Adaptations of true stories, or real-life events are another territory that we're looking for at ITV. However, these stories must be undeniably well-known; have a burning necessity for being told now and not be sensationalist in their approach.
As a team, we are particularly interested in exploring how the broad, mainstream credentials of ITV1 can be used to tell stories that showcase diverse talent and themes while still being undoubtedly propulsive and entertaining. We welcome writers and producers to explore the unique stories and experiences of disability, race, sexuality or class through the commercial ITV lens. We know that if stories on ITV are to appeal to a broad audience across the UK, then the voices and perspectives must be authentically reflective of this - across all demographics.
Drama on ITVX
Drama on ITVX should feel like an evolution of ITV1 rather than a deviation from it. ITVX offers viewers the same, accessible, undeniably compelling drama but delves into new genres and tones that are unreachable on ITV1. Ideas on ITVX can be bold and subversive, inspiring that ‘have you seen..?!’ conversation and landing the platform as a destination for fresh, compelling content.
At the moment, there is less emphasis on searching for dramas in the crime and procedural spaces for ITVX. Instead, we are keen to find stories that have the same high stakes and clear story motors but offer up something different.
We want to find ideas and territories that instantly intrigue and excite and we are keen for ITVX to challenge an audience's expectations of what they think ITV drama is. As such, there is scope to be more playful on ITVX and feature shows with tones that are quirkier, cooler or more elevated.
The upcoming comedy/sci-fi/horror, Passenger, which follows former Met detective Riya Anjunwa investigating a series of unnatural and strange crimes in a small northern village, serves as a strong example of this deviation and highlights a move into more genre-skewing pieces.
While we are open to stories on ITVX that serve specific genres like sci-fi or horror, the story being told shouldn’t feel niche or exclusive. Instead, it is crucial that the idea still feels broad, entertaining and with elements that unite ITVX and ITV1.
We are also keen to highlight A Spy Among Friends for its scale and tone and express that it isn’t a series we would have been able to commission without ITVX. The casting of Damian Lewis and Guy Pierce in the leading roles also showcases the importance of housing big stars on ITVX.
Producers are welcome to pitch to the drama team directly or via their pitching email. We ask that ideas are pitched at an early stage so that the team can ensure a project is a right fit for ITV.
Scripted comedy at ITV is overseen by Nana Hughes. Her core focus is ITVX, where all comedies will premiere before they transfer to either ITV1 or ITV2. Nana is assisted by Callum Dziedzic, who is Assistant Commissioner for Drama & Comedy.
Comedy on ITV welcomes a huge cross-section of contemporary, diverse, and inclusive stories that stretch beyond ITV's traditional mainstream boundaries. Each show delves into the various layers and pockets of Britishness and focuses on the pricklier aspects of contemporary life. As such, we are seeking content that looks at real life and real problems rather than high-concept pieces.
We're keen to layer stories that can speak to multi-generational, multi-diverse audiences and that give honest insight into what Britain is like right now. They should feature real-world people that are relatable and spark conversations among audiences.
One route for achieving this is bringing controversial, subversive stories and characters into the mainstream. This is reflected in Count Abdullah, an upcoming series that promises to confront racial stereotypes.
Similarly, we welcome authentically written stories that broach hard-to-talk-about subjects through the prism of comedy. Since all comedies are premiering on ITVX there is more freedom around the topics and conversations that can be tackled; writers and producers shouldn’t feel restricted or inhibited in confronting real-world subjects head-on. However, it should be noted that ITV remains a populist broadcaster and any prospective comedies must have mainstream appeal.
In terms of format and length, our main focus is on 30-minute contemporary sitcoms with high gag rates. Accessibility is key to maximising appeal, and programmes should be set in recognisable locations.
We are also seeking hour-long comedy dramas with characters and narratives that can serve multiple series. Once again, accessibility and location are key.
When pitching, it is encouraged that producers send top-line ideas, but ideally, a script if this is possible. Pitches can be sent to email@example.com.
Producers should be aware that all ITVX commissions will exclusively remain on the streamer for at least six months until premiering on ITV’s linear channels.
ITV is only commissioning for UK rights for ITVX. We are open to forming international co-production partnerships for projects – these typically have a bigger budget and feature a wide-reaching international story.
Small production companies are encouraged to pitch projects of a bigger scale and we are open to further developing ideas to make them a right fit for the broadcaster.
Talent does not need to be attached in the first instance as there is a bigger focus on hearing a “simple idea” where its originality and distinctive voice can shine through clearly.
We welcome material in pitch, treatment or script form. Though a script always helps to get a clearer sense of the tone and voice of the writer.
When pitching a crime, procedural, mystery or thriller, we will always want to know how the show resolves and if it is satisfying, so a short concise series document is helpful in this instance.