LONDON: With the steady hand of recently appointed executive chairman Michael Grade on the tiller at ITV, Britain's largest commercial broadcaster is slowly emerging from the doldrums in which it has wallowed for the last several years.

In its first half-yearly trading statement since Grade took up his post in January, ITV reports an improvement in programme ratings on prime channel ITV1, and a slowing of the decline in advertising revenues.

The channel has "successfully regained audience share in the afternoon during the first half", attributable in part to its controversial decision to axe some children's programming in favour of classic pop-cop series such as Inspector Morse.

During the period ITV1's share of 'commercial impacts' (the proportion of overall TV ads seen by its viewers) fell by 5.6% to 32.3% - nonetheless a distinct improvement on the channel's 9.1% decline in H1 2006.

ITV1 net ad revenues were down 9% at £595 million ($1.2bn; €881.38m). Even so, this slightly bettered the 9.6% forecast at the company's annual meeting in May.

Groupwide, ITV ad income was down 5%, although its three digital channels enjoyed a degree of growth, their combined viewing share up by 6% to 4.5% of the UK viewing universe. Breakfast channel GMTV hiked its revenues by 24% to £122m.

For the UK commercial TV market as a whole, the year's second half got off to an encouraging start with advance ad commitments up 10% year-on-year. This compares with a fall of 0.3% in the January-June period.

Comments Numis Securities analyst Paul Richards: "Michael Grade did say there was no magic bullet and, in terms of the turnaround, it's a little bit early. But every sign we have had has been encouraging."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff