ITV Nightscreen

22 March 2019 | Updated 30 May 2022

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 showing the sun setting.

Good night sweet prince. © 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 used Scala InfoChannel software. This format was used for several years but as time went on, the number of articles shrank.

Each of the ITV channels (1, 2, 3, 4, Be) had its own Nightscreen music set, all of which were provided by APM Music. Juice on Demand (JMOL-0001 and JMOL-0002) were often used on ITV1 and ITV2. It's still possible to listen to those jazzy tracks online for free.

Nightscreen is no longer on the air. On Friday 1st October 2021, it broadcast its last set of slides, and was replaced with the new overnight programme "Unwind With ITV". It's sad, but expected. Many of the sections were empty — so you'd see the header video clip for say, "feature", a few seconds of darkness, then another header. It was usually possible to watch an entire content loop in 5 minutes, virtually 100% of which being TV listings. It probably wasn't worth beefing up the programme with new slides because (pretty much) nobody watched it anymore.

Given the amount of teleshopping that is shown overnight these days, I wonder if there is an obligation to show Nightscreen (or something similar). 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 contained no advert breaks. Perhaps it was used to dilute the advertising minutes shown per day.

In my original article, I suggested that ITV do an experiment - put a message into one of the slides, "if you can read this, e-mail us!" to see if they got a response. Maybe they did, and got no responses. I hadn't watched it myself in a few years...

My nostalgia will always remember the original Teletext type format kindly. Videos of that are floating around on YouTube, as are the final days of this format. And of course, Pages From Ceefax!

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