Suffering a protracted collapse in ad revenue, British commercial television network ITV has reportedly frozen its 2002 programming budget.

Little over a week after reports suggested the network would marginally increase its programming expenditure [WAMN: 28-Sep-01], ITV sources have revealed the figure will stay, in real terms, at £747 million. Confirmed one insider: “We are looking at next year’s overall programming budget being flat.”

However, the budget devoted to areas such as drama and entertainment could be threatened by expenditure ‘escalators’ included in ITV’s sports deals, such as its contract to show Premier League soccer highlights.

“There is no room for manoeuvre in sports, so what we will see is reshuffling of money and people will have to fight to maintain spending levels,” revealed an unnamed ITV source.

ITV is facing a decline in ad revenue of up to 16% for 2001, some £330m less than it garnered last year. It suffered a 15% year-on-year shortfall in September, while December’s outlook is for a decline of up to 30%.

In addition, the network’s two largest shareholders – Granada Media and Carlton Communications – are losing money hand over fist at jointly owned digital operator ITV Digital, thought to be haemorrhaging cash at a rate of £5m a week. Zenith Media recently forecast that the platform’s losses could affect programming quality at the parent network [WAMN: 25-Sep-01].

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