ITV reduces programme budget by £100m as ad market deteriorates

All types of brands are deferring spend.

Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway: attracted biggest-ever audience this weekend
Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway: attracted biggest-ever audience this weekend

ITV is reducing its programme budget by £100m in light of a weaker advertising market, the broadcaster revealed in a trading update this morning (Monday).

It follows yesterday’s announcement that ITV is stopping production of Coronation Street and Emmerdale, and no longer running live shows of Loose Women and Lorraine.

ITV said in the trading update that the £100m "reflects savings from sport, including the postponement of Euro 2020, the late delivery of commissioned programming and active decisions to reduce our spend".

It added: "We have also taken steps to reduce discretionary spending by £20m in 2020. This is in addition to the £10m of savings already guided for 2020. Further, we have identified £30m of savings in our capex."

The company noted that all types of brands (not just travel companies, as was the case in early March) are now deferring adspend over March and April. "We are staying in close contact and working constructively with our client and agency partners," it said.

Earlier this month, ITV forecast a 10% drop in ad revenue for April because of travel brands pushing back advertising. But these forecasts have deteriorated further, it said today, although the business is "not in a position" to give guidance on how much of an impact coronavirus is having on adspend in March and April.

ITV added: "We will update again at our Q1 trading update in May. Over a full year, each 1% decline in total advertising revenue reduces revenue and profit by c.£17m , before any mitigation."

The broadcaster has dropped its plan to pay an annual dividend as it seeks to conserve cash.

ITV's share price fell about 10% to 56p on the news.

Marketing cuts

Brands including John Lewis & Partners, Marks & Spencer and Next have been cutting back on marketing spend as they close stores in light of government advice encouraging people to distance themselves from each other and work from home.

ITV has also been recording higher viewers for its shows. On Saturday night, Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway had its biggest-ever audience, with an average of 9.5 million viewers – a 45% share of the total number of people watching TV at the same time. It was the first time that the show was filmed without an audience.

The Voice also recorded its highest number of viewers of the series so far with an average of 4.8 million – a 25% share – and a 5.4 million peak.

Dame Carolyn McCall, ITV chief executive, said: "We are operating in unprecedented and uncertain times, requiring us to take difficult decisions, plan carefully and act with speed. Our absolute priority is to protect our people, while trying to ensure that we deliver the news and programmes our viewers value and love to watch, and to keep them informed.

"We are actively taking measures to reduce costs and manage our cash flow so that we are best-positioned to continue to deliver our strategy of building a digitally led media and entertainment company over the medium term."

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