The Incorporated Television Company (ITC) distributed and co-produced The Muppet Show, The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper and The Dark Crystal, as well as the specials The Muppets Go Hollywood, The Muppets Go to the Movies, Of Muppets & Men: The Making of the Muppet Show, and The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show. Originally formed in 1955 by British impresario Lew Grade, it became his main production wing for Associated TeleVision (ATV), as part of the commercial Independent Television Network (ITV). After initially finding success creating the TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood, ITC became more notable for two types of shows in the 1960s: secret agents and spy series such as The Saint (starring future James Bond/Muppet Show guest star Roger Moore) and the two classic series of Patrick McGoohan: Danger Man (known in the US as Secret Agent) and The Prisoner, as well as the various "Supermarionation" and science fiction series of Gerry Anderson, such as Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds, and the live action series UFO and Space: 1999. The company also was notable for its variety-shows, two of which included Sunday Night at the London Palladium (featuring Bruce Forsyth) and The Julie Andrews Hour (starring Julie Andrews).
By the 1970s, ITC began to branch out into other kinds of productions, undertaking feature films like The Return of the Pink Panther (featuring Peter Sellers) and the 1977 TV-miniseries Jesus of Nazareth by film director Franco Zefferelli. With the success of The Muppet Show and Jesus in particular in the mid-late 1970s, the company had entered its biggest, most notable period. The studio approached hard times in 1980 with the failure of several other films, particularly the big-budget action drama Raise the Titanic, combined with Henson's voluntary end to The Muppet Show and the banishment of Grade's involvement in ATV with the ITV contract bidding war, forcing the former network to transform into Central Television in 1982. Some of ITC's most famous works were released in this period of turmoil, including The Dark Crystal and the Oscar winning films On Golden Pond (with Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda) and Sophie's Choice (starring Meryl Streep). The company barely existed and did minor productions until eventually being bought out by Carlton Television in 1999.
After Lew Grade left and was replaced with Robert Holmes a Court in 1982, Jim Henson ended his association with the company, buying the rights to The Dark Crystal in 1982 and all remaining Henson properties two years later. Additionally, before Henson purchased the rights to all Muppet properties from the company, ITC also received 10 percent of the net income generated from Muppet-related merchandise.
In 2004, Carlton merged with the other major commercial TV company in the UK, Granada, to form ITV plc. ITV is now the single largest commercial broadcaster in the UK holding many TV and Film rights (including the Rank Film Distributors library and popular Carry On films).
Universal Pictures retains US theatrical distribution rights to titles from ITC's American distributing arm Associated Film Distributors (whose library and then in-production titles were sold to Universal in 1981). Through Fathom Events, Universal has re-released The Dark Crystal to select theaters in 2018, and The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper for 40th Anniversary screenings.
- Jim Henson: The Biography, page 541
- Jim's Red Book -- 1/17/1982 -- Meet with Robert Holmes A Court
- Jim Henson: The Biography, page 374
- Universal Pictures to Market Films from AFD." The New York Times. February 24, 1981.