ITV may buy to boost its studios arm

Steve Dinneen
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ITV may grow its struggling studios division through acquisitions, according to its chief executive Adam Crozier.

The broadcaster is desperate to strengthen the division to provide a revenue stream that is less volatile than advertising income.

A bounce-back in the ad market trebled ITV’s pre-tax profits to £321m last year.

However, it saw a steep fall in profits at its studio division, which slid 11 per cent to £81m, with revenues dropping 12.5 per cent to £293m.

This has led analysts to question how susceptible ITV may be to a second economic downturn. Crozier sees a bolstered studios division as a key growth area, allowing ITV to export programming abroad and cushion against a drop in advertising.

A number of high profile independent production firms have been mooted as possible targets, although sources close to ITV have distanced themselves from any imminent bids.

A glut of ITV executives have left the firm to start production companies and these firms top the list of likely acquisitions. These include:

• Mammoth Screen, the firm run by former ITV executives Michele Buck and Damien Timmer, which produces shows including Wuthering Heights.

• Left Bank Pictures, set up by ITV-man Andy Harries, which produces Wallander.

• All3Media, the so-called “super-indie” behind shows such as Midsomer Murders, which is run by former ITV bosses including Steve Morrison, David Liddiment, Jules Burns and Wayne Garvie.

• Gallowgate, the Ant and Dec production vehicle with strong ties to ITV.

• RTL-owned TalkbackThames, the production arm of X-Factor maker Freemantle, although it is questionable whether ITV could afford it.