ITV shares boosted by slimmer than forecast fall in ad sales

ITV reported a slimmer than expected fall in its advertising revenue on Wednesday, sending its shares rallying more than 7 per cent.

Total advertising revenue fell 5 per cent to £849m in the six month ending June 30, and live viewing of its TV and online channels fell 5 per cent year-on-year to 8.2bn hours after a particularly successful previous year with the Football World Cup. It had in May forecast a decline in ad sales of 6 per cent.

The broadcaster’s total revenues fell 5 per cent to £1.75bn, less than previously guided.

Profits before tax in the first six months fell 16 per cent to £222m.

“The economic and political environment remains uncertain but we are very focused on delivering our strategy,” said ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall, adding she wanted the company to become an “increasingly digital entertainment company” to tap into “evolving viewing and advertising opportunities”.

Broadcasters have scrambled to find new revenue sources as fewer people watch traditional television. ITV and the BBC are planning to launch a joint streaming service BritBox before the end of the year, to fend off mounting competition from rivals for people’s attention, like Netflix. The broadcaster said its net investment in the service will reach £25m in 2019, increasing to around £40m in 2020, before declining.

A highlight for the broadcaster was Love Island, the TV show that features singletons shacked up on a paradise island, which has proved to be a hit with younger viewers, averaging 5.5m views per episode. ITV said it would extend the show to two, instead of one, series a year by 2020 and Dame Carolyn credited it with supporting online revenues that grew 18 per cent.

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