Entertainment

Advertisers start returning to ITV after brutal six months

The company has restarted, or completed, production on 70% of shows that were paused when lockdown began.

Advertisers are slowly coming back to ITV as it restarts production on most of its shows and expects to pour nearly £1 billion into its programming this year.

Boss Dame Carolyn McCall said her company was now seeing an “upward trajectory” and revealed that more Brits than hoped had signed up to BritBox, likely because they were stuck in lockdown.

Production has restarted, or been completed, on around 70% of its shows that were paused when the UK and much of the rest of the world went into lockdown, ITV said.

It means that the broadcaster will plough around £960 million into its programming this year.

But even as people were sat at home, sometimes with little else to do other than watch television, ITV took a massive hit.

The broadcaster said that profit before tax dropped 93% to £15 million in the first half of the financial year, on revenue of £1.45 billion.

“This has been one of the most challenging times in the history of ITV,” Dame Carolyn said.

She added: “While our two main sources of revenue – production and advertising – were down significantly in the first half of the year and the outlook remains uncertain, today we are seeing an upward trajectory with productions restarting and advertisers returning to take advantage of our highly effective mass reach and addressable advertising platform, in a brand safe environment.”

The board decided to scrap the dividend in a bid to save cash.

Shares dropped 1.4% on the news.

For the first time since 2011, the number of people watching broadcast television increased, as people were stuck inside for large periods during the six months.

TV viewing was up 7% to 203 minutes on the same period last year, even through many shows were cancelled and postponed, such as Love Island, coverage of football’s European Championship and the Britain’s Got Talent finals.

Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor, said: “Enforced lockdown from the pandemic was a golden opportunity for broadcasters given a largely captive audience, but to a large degree this has not filtered through to ITV.”

And with the company’s share price in the doldrums, down 60% this year, speculation is resurfacing over whether someone might launch a bid to buy the broadcaster, he said.

Mr Hunter added: “ITV’s reliance on traditional advertising revenue is something of a thorn in its side. Companies understandably pulled back from advertising goods that they could not sell and, in any event, given the fact that costs became a priority, the advertising budget is often the first to give way.”

ITV Hub+ subscriptions dropped by 4.2% to 390,000, and BritBox remains a “net cost” despite attracting new viewers, Mr Hunter said.

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