A few days ago I blogged about how a data entry slip-up had apparently caused ITV customers to be overcharged £200,000. Whenever they used their remotes to vote on the popular X-Factor show, they were charged 50p instead of the correct charge of 35p. Now it seems that the quality of controls over all premium rate services linked to ITV shows are under scrutiny; see this story. This means that some programmes with formats heavily dependent on viewers voting or calling in will be taken off air until the relevant call charges have been audited. See here for a video clip from the rival BBC commenting on the story.
The amazing thing here is that a national broadcaster can put such a cheap price on its own reputation. The cost of sensible checks to catch errors immediately is trivial compared to the £200,000 overcharge caused as the problem goes unnoticed for months. Engaging Deloittes to check their rates are correct will not come cheaply (I used to work there and so have a good idea of the hefty margins they will be charging on this kind of work). And £200,000 is trivial compared to the potential loss of revenue. ITV makes around £20m every year from its late night phone-in quiz show. So you can assume that each night the show is not on air will cost ITV roughly £100,000 in lost revenues. In addition, viewers will tune in tonight, find that their favourite shows are not on air, and realise that their confidence in being charged correctly may have been misplaced. In fact, a certain proportion of customers will only now fully realise how much they have been spending to interact with their favourite television shows.
The only winners from this are, oddly, Virgin Media (formerly ntl-Telewest). If they had succeeded in buying ITV last year, it presumably would be Richard Branson making the excuses for failure and seeing the Virgin brand get tarnished almost as soon as the rebranding exercise had begun. Their revenue assurance team will be breathing a sigh of relief that this mess did not get dumped on them. So Branson has (a small) reason to thank Murdoch for blocking the ITV bid after all. But tomorrow they will all be double-checking that they have no similar problems within their own businesses. A lot of RA people are going to find themselves very popular in the next few days…..