ITV makes $360m push into original reality TV

Oliver Smith
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BROADCASTER ITV continued its push into original content yesterday with the $360m (£212.2m) acquisition of a stake in Leftfield Entertainment – the producer of hit US reality TV shows including Pawn Stars, Real Housewives of New Jersey and American Restoration.

The acquisition comes as ITV chief executive Adam Crozier finds himself in increasing hot water with shareholders, ahead of his fifth annual shareholder meeting, over his £8.37m pay package last year which looks set to grow.

Executive pay at ITV is reported to have been given an amber-top rating by the Association of British Insurers, alerting its members to potential problems with the broadcaster’s remuneration packages, according to The Times.

Despite the pushbacks over the last 12 months ITV has spent nearly £300m on buying six television producers in a push to bolster its content creation arm, ITV Studios, of which Leftfield is the largest.

“Leftfield is a fantastic success story, rapidly growing from a single pilot to become one of the biggest indies in the US,” said Crozier on the acquisition.

“The team has combined creativity with strong production expertise, with over 70 per cent of the business coming from returning series and a pipeline of new ideas coming through in 2014 and into 2015 that is really encouraging,” he added.

ITV Studios reported the strongest revenue growth at ITV of 20 per cent to £857m last year, and profits soared by 24 per cent to £133m, while traditional broadcast and online advertising grew just three per cent to £1.89bn.

Leftfield reported core earnings of $38m in 2013 and ITV said it expects the producer to continue to deliver strong growth throughout 2014, and hopes to take complete ownership for $800m if it hits its targets.

“We see the acquisition as a big strategic positive: it makes ITV an even more serious player in the US reality entertainment market (ITV states it is now the largest US independent unscripted reality content business),” said Liberum analyst Ian Whittaker.

ITV’s share price closed up 0.86 per cent at 187.5p yesterday on the news.