ITV finances lifted by England Rugby World Cup hopes

LONDON - Optimism for an England victory in the Rugby World Cup Final is contributing to an increase in late money coming into the TV market.

ITV, which is showing exclusive coverage of the tournament on ITV1, ITV2 and the ITV News Channel, has seen its revenue propped up by the event, which attracts predominantly young, upmarket male audiences.

The biggest game of the tournament so far has been the coverage of England's first World Cup clash against Georgia last Sunday, which boosted ITV1's all-time average by 13 share points. Forty per cent of all viewers - 4.6m in total -- watched England defeat the Georgians by 84 points to six. This rose to 62% of all ABC1 males.

This Saturday sees England take on South Africa in what will be the most important game in the group. Given the game's lunchtime kick-off, audience figures are expected to soar with viewers hoping for a repeat of last November's clash when England routed the South Africans 53 points to three.

Audiences for games featuring the other home nations are also contributing to a growth in ITV's audience and revenue share. Scotland's game against Japan attracted an average of 2.5m individuals while Wales versus Canada was watched by 1.8m.

Carlton and Granada are hopeful that further money will come into the market should England progress through to the final stage of the tournament.

"The key thing for ITV is that the rugby is providing a bloody good audience profile for them," Chris Hayward, the head of TV at ZenithOptimedia, said.

Hayward said that he thought that if England made it through to the final, then the contribution to ITV coffers could be in the tens of millions of pounds.

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