ITV to launch new channel and increase budget for programmes

ITV gave an upbeat assessment of its prospects for advertising growth and ratings yesterday when it issued a trading update that gave details of revenues and a new autumn schedule.

ITV gave an upbeat assessment of its prospects for advertising growth and ratings yesterday when it issued a trading update that gave details of revenues and a new autumn schedule.

The company, formed from the merger of Granada and Carlton, also said it intended to revamp its digital channels, doubling the budget for its ITV2 channel and launching ITV3 in the run-up to Christmas.

Charles Allen, the chief executive, said the company had set itself a target of achieving £150m of advertising revenues from its digital spin-off channels by 2007.

This sales drive would be supported by £36m of extra programming resources for ITV2 and ITV3. ITV1, its main terrestrial channel, will be boosted this autumn by new drama including a re-make of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, to be played by Geraldine McEwan.

The company said net advertising revenues for the six months to June 2004 were expected to be up 4.9 per cent over the same period the year before. ITV1 revenues will be up 3.7 per cent while ITV2 will be up 74 per cent, reflecting the digital channel's small but rapidly growing status. Revenues for July at ITV1 are expected to be up 4 per cent and for the three months to the end of August revenues are likely to be ahead 5.5 per cent. On the measure of ITV1's share of adult commercial impacts, defined as one adult watching one advert, the company scored 41.8 per cent for the five months to the end of May against 42.7 per cent for the whole of 2003.

The new ITV3 will be a repeats channel aimed at the 35-and-overs, a group widely seen as being poorly served by multi-channel television. It will mine the ITV archive for high-quality repeats. A spokeswoman said it would be "slightly more upmarket" than ITV1. The strategy behind running three channels is to try to capture a bigger share of the television audience, which is being increasingly distracted by the plethora of new digital television channels.

Mr Allen reiterated that the company was on track to deliver the promised £100m of savings expected from the Granada-Carlton merger.

He said the savings were coming faster than expected, with the December 2004 target already met.

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