ITV audience numbers fall to lowest in 15 years while profits climb

 
James Nickerson
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ITV is on track for strong performance for 2015 (Source: Getty)

ITV audience numbers may have fallen to lowest in 15 years, but the broadcaster is continuing to grow revenues from advertising as well as its production arm ITV Studios.

The broadcasters share price was trading 2.6 per cent up in mid morning trading after the announcement.

The figures

The broadcaster posted a pre-tax profit of £391m in the first six months of the year, up 25 per cent from the year before, while earnings per share stood at 7.7p in the six months to June, up from 6.1p last year.

Revenue rose by 11 per cent to £1.35bn from £1.23bn, boosted by strong performance from its ITV Studios business, with six per cent revenue growth in its broadcast and online segment.

Net advertising revenue for its core channels in the first half of the year was up five per cent to £838m, from £795m a year before, as 12 per cent growth in the first quarter was flat during the second quarter.

Why it's interesting

ITV has been on the acquisition trail of late, buying The Voice indie Talpa in March, before going on to snap up Poldark producer Mammoth Screen at the start of June and Educating Yorkshire indie TwoFour at the end of the month, followed by website ViralNova, which was bought through ITV-backed US startup Zealot Networks in July. It has also scooped up rights to some key events, not least the Six Nations.

And it's bet to offset declining audience numbers - its share across all channels fell four per cent to 22.1 per cent - appears to be paying off so far.The fact it's looking outside of traditional TV producers for its revenue stream also seems to be working.

Online, pay and interactive revenue jumped by 27 per cent, with more than half of ITV Studios revenue coming from outside the UK. The company is seeking to produce "high quality" drama and has secured joint rights to broadcast the Six Nations rugby tournament, as a way to increased revenue.

Despite the drop in viewing figures, advertising is growing - albeit at a slower pace than the wider sector. Television advertising in the UK grew 11.5 per cent year on year, reaching £1.2bn, according to a report from Warc and the Advertising Association.

What ITV said:

Adam Crozier, ITV chief executive, said:

Looking ahead to 2016 we have now secured the joint rights to Six Nations Rugby to add to our strong schedule of sport, drama and entertainment including the European Football Championships, Beowulf, Britain's Got Talent and Seth MacFarlane's Family Guy and American Dad.

Our outlook for the remainder of this year is unchanged and we expect to deliver another strong performance in 2015.

What analysts said:

Ian Whittaker at Liberum said the broadcaster was his top pick

"ITV delivered an excellent set of numbers demonstrating better than expected earnings growth even with TV advertising revenues in line. We leave our top-end forecasts unchanged but do expect consensus upgrades, especially off the back of a strong third quarter, expected to be up eight per cent year-on-year," he added.

Paul Richards at Numis said ITV had come in ahead of expectations. "As expected, ITV notes a strong autumn schedule for programming to address share of viewing concerns. ITV Studios continues to enjoy good momentum and Talpa is performing to plan."

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