UK commercial broadcaster ITV saw its revenues rise last year by 3% to £3.3bn ($4.3bn) but advertising revenues were down 1.5% – although that figure was an improvement on the company’s previous guidance.
ITV is forecasting growth of 2% in Q1, with ad revenues likely to be down 10% in April. The company said that it had already seen an impact from travel advertising deferments relating to the Coronavirus.
Regarding the impact of Coronavirus more generally, ITV said it was “too difficult” to assess the impact at this stage.
The company said it aimed to deliver double-digit growth in online and direct-to-consumer as well as delivering limited revenue growth from production arm ITV Studios this year despite uncertainty caused by factors including the virus and Brexit.
ITV has meanwhile claimed that “the majority” of those who have signed up to its BritBox streaming JV with the BBC are converting to paying customers once their free trial period expires.
The commercial broadcaster says that the SVOD offering is now available on 10 platforms in the UK, making it available to 15 million TV screens.
This number is set to expand to 20 million in the spring after a distribution partnership with EE goes live and BritBbox becomes available on YouView and all Freeview Play devices.
ITV said that BritBox lost £21m last year, with losses expected to be in the range of £55-60m this year.
The broadcaster said that its other SVOD platforms are performing well, with ITV Hub+ now counting over 400,000 subscribers, up 50% year-on-year.
The BritBox JV with BBC Studios in the US has already announced that it now has over one million subscribers. BritBox is to launch in Australia later this year and ITV “will work to identify other possible international markets” for the service, the company said.
ITV Studios bolsters results
ITV’s production and sales division, meanwhile, reported a buoyant second half to the year with revenues across 2019 up 9%.
CEO Carolyn McCall said it would continue to explore potential acquisition targets, but added that they would be explored in a “very disciplined” manner.
Her comments come seven months after ITV picked up Armoza Formats, which came after a relatively barren spell in the M&A market for ITV. It had previously made a flurry of deals that saw it acquire firms including Duck Dynasty prodco Gurney Productions, which ended in a length legal battle, and The Voice creator Talpa Media,
The latter cost $355m but Talpa founder John de Mol exited the business last year. The formats powerhouse opted not to extend the earn-out period for a further three years, as per terms of the deal in 2015, when ITV acquired the firm. The Talpa Media brand is also now no longer being used, following a restructure of ITVS’ distribution operation.
McCall said that the company had decided against pursuing Endemol Shine Group because its valuation was “way too high” and also used the call to quash rumours that she would be tempted to replace Tony Hall as boss of the BBC.