ITV lifted by recovery and hiring hopes

SHARES in ITV soared yesterday after the commercial broadcaster forecast an upturn in advertising revenue, and ex-City financier Bob Wigley was said to be in pole-position to take over as its new chairman.<br /><br />In a surprise market update, the troubled broadcaster forecast a four per cent rise in net ad revenue (NAR) for December, as popular shows such as X Factor and Doc Martin boosted viewing figures.<br /><br />The increase would be the first monthly gain since the first half of 2008 and could end a dismal period in which ITV seemed to be inexorably losing viewers and advertising revenue.<br /><br />&ldquo;We brought forward this announcement in view of the significant improvement in trading, over and above the improvement confirmed in our trading update last month,&rdquo; said chief operating officer and interim chief executive John Cresswell.<br /><br />The broadcaster expects NAR in November to fall one per cent &ndash; better than the decline of around three per cent forecast last month &ndash; and NAR for the fourth quarter to be flat, taking the full year down 12 per cent after the worst advertising recession on record.<br /><br />Total revenue for the nine months fell 11 per cent to &pound;1.31bn. <br /><br />Meanwhile, recently-appointed Yell chairman Wigley is being tipped as a contender for the role of ITV chairman. The group has been trying to find someone to replace Michael Grade, who will also step down as executive chairman once the new chairman has appointed a successor. <br /><br />&ldquo;With further cost savings and a strong schedule in 2010, including the World Cup, we are confident that ITV is well-positioned to benefit from any market recovery,&rdquo; said Cresswell.<br /><strong><br />BOB WIGLEY<br />YELL CHAIRMAN</strong><br /><br />Yell chairman Bob Wigley is the latest name to emerge as a contender for the role of ITV chairman and, with no experience at the helm of a broadcaster, may not seem like a natural choice.<br /><br />ITV is struggling to cope with the biggest ad recession for decades and to survive the structural challenges posed by the increasing dominance of the internet. But it could do worse than hire the former European head of Merrill Lynch. <br /><br />Since joining Yell as chairman in June this year, the City veteran has already successfully steered the directories publisher through negotiations with its lenders over the refinancing of its debt-mountain.<br /><br />While at Merrill Lynch, Wigley advised on a plethora of high-profile deals, including Sir Philip Green&rsquo;s acquisition of Top Shop owner Arcadia and the doomed RBS takeover of Dutch bank ABN Amro.<br /><br />He also sat on the boards of LCH.Clearnet, Euroclear and on the EU advisory panel of the London Corporation, and has been a member of the Court of the Bank of England and of its Risk Policy and Audit Committees.<br /><br />And last year, he led a report on the competitiveness of the City of London, on behalf of Mayor of London Boris Johnson.<br /><br />Other candidates for the &pound;250,000 a year job are believed to be former BBC and BT chairman Sir Christopher Bland, GlaxoSmithKline chairman Sir Christoper Gent and ex-Channel 4 chairman Vanni Treves.