ITV Profits Down, Grade Chutzpah Up

06 March 2008

LONDON: The second set of annual results to be released since executive chairman Michael Grade eased his red-suspendered keister into the ITV hotseat don't make for cheerful reading.

Grade, however, is not downhearted. Despite a 35% fall in annual profits to £188 million ($373.25m; €245.4m), he insists his much vaunted but overdue "turnaround plan is on track".

Unsurprisingly, ITV's share price plumbed an alltime low in January and February.

But although there has been no visible change for the better, either in stock price or bottom line, shareholders will be relieved to learn there's been an "onscreen improvement".

"Viewers that had deserted us are coming back," Grade told the BBC in an interview. Viewing share of the "ITV family" of channels increased fractionally from 23.1% in 2006 to 23.2% last year.

"You are not going to get a 10% or 20% increase in viewing numbers," he added. "Given that we had ten or fifteen years of declining share I will take this increase."

Then the inevitable commercial: "With a much improved performance onscreen, we have countered the myth that ITV is a business managing decline."

Grade's shareholders obviously agree and have asked him to extend his contract for a further year until 2010. Answer? Affirmative.

Data sourced from BBC Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff