Thinking outside the box is starting to pay

Elizabeth Fournier
WHEN Adam Crozier made his debut as chief executive of ITV in January 2010 its shares were worth only 56.5p, and it was languishing just outside of the FTSE 100.

Tomorrow, with the share price more than doubled and a market cap that puts it firmly among the big boys, Crozier is expected to impress the market again with rising sales and strong cashflow figures. It’s no wonder the buyers keep piling in.

Midway through his five-year transformation plan, the former Premier League man is showing no sign of slowing down. Yesterday’s deal comes hot on the heels of ITV snapping up The Garden barely three weeks ago, and marks his sixth acquisition in just 10 months.

There’s no doubt British television is one of the great export successes of the last few years. Downton Abbey regularly pulls in more than 11m viewers in the US, while remakes of shows including Shameless and The Office have proved wildly popular, and Gordon Ramsey is set to present his fourth series of US Masterchef.

Now Crozier is taking a punt that the model works in reverse, and hoping ITV viewers in the UK and abroad will develop a taste for US imports such as Cake Boss and Next Great Baker. Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry better watch out – it’s not hard to guess which BBC blockbuster of the last few years Crozier has got his eye on.

Unique content creation is at the heart of ITV’s turnaround plan and the strategy makes sense. Spend less on buying in externally produced programmes and you can devote more time and money to developing hit exports that bring in cash, as Titanic and Mr Selfridge – also both big hits in the US – have recently proved.

Crozier is spending wisely on low-cost bolt-ons, and seems to have assembled a team that has a nose for a hit. He’s serving up long-term growth on a plate, and investors would be foolish not to take a bite.