Ad Revenues Surge at Britain's ITV Despite August Nadir

31 August 2004

The UK's largest commercial broadcaster ITV reports a continuing upward surge in advertising revenues during the first half of 2004, recording year-on-year growth of 4.9%. At the same time forward commitments for September already show a 7% increase on the same month in 2003.

According to ceo Charles Allen, the boom reflects growth across all advertising sectors except food retailing.

August, however, has proved a dismal month with viewing figures emulating Britain's soggy summer. Figures from BARB (Broadcasters' Audience Research Board) seen by the Daily Telegraph show that up to August 25, ITV1 accounted for only 19.7% of the month's aggregated TV viewing.

This is significantly lower than the 22.9% recorded in August 2003, and an all-time nadir for the channel which eleven years ago commanded 37.4% of the UK national audience.

Allen understandably chose not to dwell on this dire situation, instead focusing on the recently-merged group's cost reduction programme. He reaffirmed that ITV has already lopped £80 million ($143.37m; €119.22m) from its annual costs and is on target to deliver the £100m savings promised to Wall Street and the City of London.

Allen did not refer to the opposite side of the ledger which records the disappearance of over one thousand jobs, mostly in such areas as in-house production, finance, air-time sales and back-office functions.

His position is not a happy one. Although unlikely that anybody could reverse ITV's audience decline (caused mainly by the proliferation of digital channels), the crosswires of many large shareholders and financial institutions are trained on the beleaguered executive.

Addressing last weekend's Edinburgh television festival, Allen refuted rumours that his position is perilous and could be usurped by Greg Dyke, the former director general of the BBC.

Averred Allen: "The position about Greg Dyke is that Peter Burt [ITV's non-executive chairman] has said he has not offered Greg the job and isn't going to in the future." Interjecting a cringe-making note of pathos, Allen added: "I really want to do this job having worked really hard to create the new ITV."

Data sourced from: Financial Times and; additional content by WARC staff