ITV returns to annual profit with £25 million surplus

Broadcaster ITV today said it returned to annual profit with a £25 million surplus after plunging into the red by £2.7 billion in 2008.

The group signalled the "worst television advertising downturn on record" was behind it as it estimated a 7% bounce-back in ad revenues in the three months since the year end, with predictions for 15% to 20% growth in April.

ITV also announced that incoming boss Adam Crozier - currently Royal Mail chief executive - will start on April 26.

ITV confirmed Mr Crozier will be paid a basic salary below the £800,000 offered to his predecessor Michael Grade, but it is thought he will be offered a generous incentive package to hit targets over a five-year revival plan. The group said it would outline details of his pay and bonuses soon.

ITV has a new management line-up to take the group forward led by a new chairman, former Asda boss Archie Norman, who started in January.

He said Mr Crozier's challenge would be to reduce ITV's dependence on a free-to-air model, which has come under threat from digital media and regulation.

"Under Adam Crozier's leadership, ITV will set out on the journey to become a very different business over the next five years," said Mr Norman.

A strategy review has already started ahead of his arrival, helped by external consultants.

Mr Norman confirmed that content and production would be at the heart of the revamp.

Cutbacks announced last year will remain in place for 2010, although Mr Norman said there is some scope for reinvestment in programming.

ITV said the 2009 pre-tax profit came after it won back a share of the TV advertising market, but revenues overall declined by 9% after a tough first half.

The group - home to shows such as X Factor and Coronation Street - slashed 1,200 jobs to cut costs, confirming it delivered £169 million in savings last year, which was more than the targeted £155 million.

John Cresswell, interim chief executive, said: "Faced with the worst television advertising downturn on record, we took decisive action to improve our operational performance, deliver substantial cost savings and strengthen our balance sheet."

But he added caution despite the advertising revenue revival, with figures helped by weak comparatives.

Results will come up against stronger comparatives in the second half and particularly the fourth quarter of 2010, with further uncertainty ahead of the general election.

"Over the medium term, we remain cautious - we recognise also that ITV still faces formidable challenges," he added.

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