British broadcaster ITV has begun to recover from stalled production during the pandemic, with advertising revenue rebounding 68 per cent this month.
In a trading update this morning, ITV said it expected total ad revenue for the first half of the year to rise around 26 per cent compared to 2020, despite pandemic restrictions being in place for nearly all of the period.
The FTSE 250 broadcaster said it expected ad revenue for May to be up about 85 per cent year on year, with an anticipated boost of between 85 per cent and 90 per cent in June alongside the return of the Euros and Love Island.
Total external revenue rose two per cent to £709m in the first quarter of the year, while revenue at ITV Studios rose nine per cent to £372m.
ITV’s total viewing rose one per cent, boosted by Saturday Night Takeaway and the Six Nations rugby contest.
Chief executive Carolyn McCall said: “We have made a good start to 2021 with total revenue and total viewing both up, despite the continuing impact of the pandemic. We finished the quarter strongly with the substantial majority of our shows back in production and a recovery in the advertising market.
“We are encouraged by the UK roadmap out of lockdown and remain cautiously optimistic about the year ahead.”
The broadcaster had previously warned that the advertising market remained “challenging” as it reported sharp falls in revenue and profit due to the impact of the pandemic.
The company was forced to halt production of almost all of its shows in the wake of the pandemic, with filming only resuming last summer with strict safety measures in place. Around 90 per cent of programmes are now back in production.
ITV, which slashed its interim payout in August due to the advertising slump, said in March that it would restore the dividend “as soon as circumstances permit”.
Chief financial officer Chris Kennedy said that more certainty over lockdown restrictions and less volatility in the ad market was needed before the payout could be reinstated.
ITV said its key focus this year was to sell more of its formats abroad, grow its scripted business and double the revenue it makes from commissioning shows for streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.