ITV ad revenues down 7% in first quarter

Decline is steeper than predicted in last set of results.

Love Island: returns to ITV2 next month
Love Island: returns to ITV2 next month

ITV’s advertising revenue fell 7% to £417m in the first three months of 2019, according to a trading update published today. The broadcaster said this was in line with guidance issued in February – but the decline is greater than the 3-4% it predicted for the first four months of the year.

Chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall has said ITV is "actively mitigating the factors outside the company's control" as it prepares for a summer that lacks a major football tournament, but does have plenty of Brexit-linked market uncertainty.

The business reported that total external revenues for the first three months of the year were down 4% to £743m. Revenue from production arm ITV Studios was up 1% to £385m.

Meanwhile, video-on-demand revenues were up 22%, ITV said. Recent data from the Advertising Association and Warc found that it had significantly underestimated advertiser spend on broadcaster VOD.

McCall said ITV’s performance had been "very much as we expected", welcoming a 4% increase in share of viewing across the ITV family of brands and a 16% increase in viewing hours on ITV Hub.

She hailed the success of dramas Manhunt, Cheat, Cleaning Up and The Bay, as well as Six Nations coverage and Dancing on Ice, pointing to Wild Bill, Beecham House, A Confession, the Rugby World Cup and the return of Love Island as key elements of the schedule for the rest of the year.

The statement said the first half of the year would see ad revenues down by an expected 6% – influenced by "the continuing economic and political uncertainty and its effect on the demand for advertising", along with the absence of the football World Cup and costs including the launch of BritBox, ITV’s paid streaming platform with the BBC.

"We remain very focused on delivering in the areas we can control, with our investment and cost-saving programmes on track, and we are actively mitigating the factors outside the company's control," McCall said.

"We have a solid balance sheet, which enables us to make the right decisions to build a robust and growing business and deliver returns to shareholders in line with our guidance."

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