Despite the economic headwinds and tough comparison with last year's Football World Cup, ITV lifted advertising revenues in the first half, with the broadcaster adding it would outperform rivals during the rest of the year.
Chief executive Adam Crozier also made further moves to overhaul the group's revenue model by announcing plans to charge for some of its most popular shows online.
Advertising revenues at the broadcaster, whose hit shows include X Factor, rose 2 per cent in the first six months, which proved slightly worse than other broadcasters. Mr Crozier said that while he was cautious about advertising, ITV would "outperform the TV market across the whole of the year".
Pre-tax profits for the first half rose from £118m a year earlier to £204m, while revenues were up 4 per cent to just over £1bn. The cost-saving programme is on course to strip out £15m of savings this year alone. Net debt at the group fell more than two-thirds to £55m from £188m at the turn of the year. The company also announced it would re-instate its dividend for the first time since 2008. "We're now one year into our five year transformation plan," Mr Crozier said, adding the group was "making good progress on delivering our strategy of creating great content and exploiting it across multiple platforms and selling it internationally".
Mr Crozier said ITV's channels had improved their audience share by 2 per cent and were set to benefit further with a series of new dramas. Paul Richards, analyst at Numis, said the company was making "good progress on screen," adding it was likely to benefit from the forthcoming Rugby World Cup, next year's Olympics and gameshow Red or Black.
ITV said the volatile advertising market in the first half showed the "need to rebalance the business and become less reliant on advertising revenues". This prompted the announcement to introduce micropayments for some shows seen on the ITV Player.