ITV Nightscreen

22 March 2019

I want to write a little about how much I liked ITV Nightscreen. Sure, it's pretty useless these days because web access is widely available, but 20 years ago it was a handy fact file. Show plot catchups, movie reviews, useful factsheets and TV listings were all shown to an elevator-esque music soundtrack. It is kinda like ITV's version of the BBC's "Pages from Ceefax" programme.

ITV Nightscreen title slide.

© ITV / Gower Creative Communications 2016.

The earliest versions even had the same text-y style as Teletext and their kin. No Teletext decoder was needed of course, since they were broadcast as a rendered TV picture.

Later versions were more akin to a PowerPoint slideshow, or some sort of Flash presentation. Interestingly, they look a lot like early MHEG digital text, so the connections to Teletext remain. According to the Wikipedia article on Nightscreen, it uses Scala InfoChannel software. This format was used for several years but as time went on, the number of articles shrank.

Nightscreen is still on the air today, and the format in use has been the same for at least 10 years. Unfortunately it seems to be a barebones effort now, probably pulling in articles intended for other things (e.g. TV listing magazines). You can often watch one content loop in less than 5 minutes. It does still have the same jazzy music though! Each ITV channel (1, 2, 3, 4, Be) has its own Nightscreen music set, and it seems to change about once a year.

Given the amount of teleshopping that is shown overnight these days, I wonder if there is an obligation to show Nightscreen. ITV is a public service broadcaster and they are allowed to broadcast up to 6 hours a night of teleshopping [1.6b], so they don't have to cut it short. Speaking of advertising, Nightscreen contains no advert breaks. Perhaps it is used to dilute the advertising minutes shown per day.

It's not worth beefing up the programme with new slides because pretty much nobody watches it. ITV should do an experiment - put a message into one of the slides, "if you can read this, e-mail us!" and see how many responses they get.

My nostalgia will always remember the original Teletext type format kindly. Videos of that are floating around on YouTube.

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