The broadcaster has posted some welcome figures for the third quarter – with revenues up to £1.45bn. Ad revenue played the strongest part in its success, rising 16% year-on-year for the first nine months.
ITV can thank the summer’s World Cup and the return of the X Factor. Especially the latter: ad revenues for the fourth quarter are expected to be 10% higher than last year as we motor towards Christmas and the talent show heads to its gripping denouement. We may be squirming, but ITV is laughing - especially when it cashes the £250k cheque it’s rumoured to be getting for each 30-second ad slot on the weekend of the final.
Adam Crozier’s outfit is on track to outperform the overall UK TV market this year. It’s even boasted a critical success in its star-studded Downton Abbey. Whatever next?
It's all more than a little surprising for a company more often portrayed as a troubled entity struggling with direction, and making poor decisions like buying Friends Reunited. The broadcaster bought the social networking platform for £175m, and sold it last year for £25m; meanwhile Facebook, its logical successor, has become central to people’s lives, is the subject of a hit film by David Fincher, and is now launching an email system that could even give Google’s mighty Gmail a run for its considerable money.
It all makes the current change in fortunes more impressive. But the news wasn’t all good. ITV’s strong showing in ad revenue was somewhat offset by the performance of ITV Studios, its TV production arm: commissions from other broadcasters were down 10%. ITV said the figures once again ‘emphasised the need for creative renewal’ at the division. We could have told them that just looking at the TV Times – the channel may have its flagship period piece, but it’s mainly still ‘I’m Some Bloke You’ve Never Heard Of, Get Me A Better Agent’.
Indeed, former Royal Mail man Crozier has seen too much that's gruesome in his working life to get carried away. He pointed out that the figures ‘do not disguise the significant challenges ITV faces and we remain focused on delivering the five-year transformation plan’. He’s already launched high def versions of ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4 on Sky, while it has also agreed new three-year deals for both the X Factor and Britain's Got Talent.
We could add a withering comment here, but we sense there’s no point. Incredibly, ITV accounted for 982 of the top 1,000 most-watched programmes on commercial television last year, so it must be doing something right.