From the noble deeds of Robin Hood in the 1950s to the frenetic gyrations of Tom Jones in the 1970s, the story of ATV programmes has been one of success.
Programmes made by ATV and its subsidiary companies are seen not only in the Midlands and on the national network but by scores of countries throughout the world.
On the home scene the company’s presentations feature regularly in the audience ratings Top 20.
The daily serial Crossroads is still going strong after more than five years. It has now run to more than 1,200 episodes, with Noele Gordon starring in more than 1,000 of them.
So far more than 559 miles of videotape have recorded the daily doings in the fictitious Midlands motel – enough to stretch from Birmingham to Penzance and back.
One of the more recent success stories has been that of The Golden Shot, compered by the comedian Bob Monkhouse. whose quick-fire ad lib work has made him a firm favourite with audiences throughout Britain.
First introduced on the Continent, the programme idea soon caught on here. The test of skill with the crossbow linked to a TV camera marked a departure in television big-prize contests.
Providing news and views from the Midlands five days a week is The Team at Six. This is a new format for the ATV Today news and magazine programme and has quickly become popular with Midland viewers.
It was launched last November with the idea of presenting more hard up-to-the-minute news of the Midlands.
In the field of drama the new series The Misfit, starring Ronald Fraser, has quickly proved a hit.
The spectaculars from the London Palladium brought big-name light entertainment to TV screens every weekend; and stars like Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdinck have had their own ATV shows.
Programme exports have twice won ATV’s Sir Lew Grade the Queen’s Award to Industry.
The latest deal was announced only last month. In this Sir Lew has sold at least £14m. worth of adventure and light entertainment series to the TV networks in the United States.
This big coup has been in signing up the film actor Tony Curtis to co-star with Roger Moore in a high adventure series, The Friendly Persuaders.
The most costly series ever produced in Britain, it has been sold to the American Broadcasting Company for an initial 8m. dollars. If options are taken up the series could net up to 40m dollars over the next four years.
In the same deal the American Broadcasting Company also bought a series starring Petula Clarke; and the National Broadcasting Company has bought a projected Marty Feldman comedy series.
Exports are handled by the ATV subsidiary the Incorporated Television Company, of which Sir Lew is managing director.
Apart from drama, documentary and adventure programmes the company also exports the weekly Star Soccer programme.
Within a few days of the match it is seen in such countries as Australia, Cyprus, Kenya, Malta, Egypt, Jordan and Zambia. Scandinavian television services take the match the same day as the game is played.
Shows to America are sold either for national networking or through individual deals to particular TV stations.
One of the first series to be sold to this market was The Adventures of Robin Hood and this has been followed by such series as Danger Man, The Saint, The Invisible Man, This is Tom Jones and the costly puppet shows made by Gerry Anderson, Supercar, Thunderbirds, and Firebird XL 5.
Gerry Anderson’s productions are made by another ATV subsidiary. The latest development of this company is to develop a series starring humans instead of puppets, but with a similar futuristic setting.
The first programme exports were made in 1958, when ITC was set up. From the beginning Sir Lew himself has spearheaded the export drive.
To date ITC has made more than 1,500 separate episodes of drama series and uses some 80,000 feet of film stock each week. This is more than the entire British feature film industry.
A departure has been the production of feature films for showing in cinemas in Britain and on television in the United States. Production of the latest of these, Cause for Alarm, started recently at Pinewood Studios.
The thinking behind this is based on TV chiefs’ fears that there will soon be a shortage of feature films for showing on the small screen.