The City of London and Wall Street string-pullers behind ITV, the UK's largest commercial broadcaster, are relieved that chief executive Charles Allen did nothing to rock the boat during the company's first full year as an integrated entity following the January 2004 merger of Granada and Carlton Communications.

Many observers see this seminal year as the prelude to a bid from one or another of the global media giants - a period during which any untoward event would be inconvenient. Very.

So a steady hand on the tiller was appreciated in the canyons of Wall and Leadenhall Streets. So much so that Allen's meagre salary of just over £1m ($1.88m; €1.45m) has been garnished with an £845,000 bonus in recognition of his performing in accordance with his job specification.

It also helped that the much trumpeted cost-saving benefits (the key rationale for the merger) kicked-in on cue, resulting in a 57% rise in profits to £340m and ahead of analysts' expectations.

Less welcome, however, is the recent slump in the broadcaster's viewing figures. According to the British Audience Research Bureau, the company's flagship channel ITV1 lost 10% of its audience in the first two months of 2005, compared with the same period last year [WAMN: 09-Mar-05].

Worse yet, the biggest numbers switching channels were in the advertiser-attractive 16-34 age group, where viewing slumped by almost 23%.

Some ITV insiders suggest it's time for former catering company accountant Allen to devise a new menu.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff