ITV blames Brexit uncertainty for tumbling ad sales, but hopes Love Island will come to rescue

Broadcaster and producer banking on hit shows to make up for poor performance as advertisers hold back on spending

Ben Chapman@b_c_chapman
Wednesday 08 May 2019 10:04
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Revenues dropped as much as 16 per cent in March and are set to plummet by around 20 per cent in June
Revenues dropped as much as 16 per cent in March and are set to plummet by around 20 per cent in June

ITV has blamed Brexit uncertainty after advertising sales tumbled 7 per cent in the first three months of the year.

The broadcaster said it hopes reality TV hit Love Island will come to the rescue.

ITV, which produces shows including Line of Duty, warned that revenues would remain lower for the first half of 2019 because Brexit has reduced demand for advertising.

Revenues dropped as much as 16 per cent in March compared to the same month last year. They are set to plummet by around 20 per cent in June as ITV comes up against an “exceptionally strong” June 2018, which was boosted by the Football World Cup.

But chief executive Carolyn McCall said the first quarter performance was “very much as we expected” and that the company would remain on track for the year.

Ms McCall pointed to a line-up of popular series including the hit reality show Love Island, which will return this year.

The broadcaster is boosting the strength of its own production arm, which has brought in £120m more than at the same point last year. It bought a majority stake in World Productions, the company behind Line of Duty, in 2017.

ITV is also predicting strong growth in viewers and advertising for its online streaming service. The company confirmed it remains on schedule to launch its new streaming service later this year in the UK.

Britbox, a joint venture with the BBC, is hoping to take on Netflix in the battle for on-demand viewers.

Ms McCall added: “We have a solid slate of new and returning programmes in the UK and internationally including Snowpiercer, World On Fire, Line Of Duty – this year’s most watched programme in the UK – Zero Zero Zero, Hell’s Kitchen, Love Island and I’m A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here!

Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Today’s binge-watching culture means there’s a strong demand for high-quality content. With ITV responsible for the production of Line of Duty, that’s a trend it’s definitely capitalising on with its Studios division.

“Revenues from this side of the business are growing, and with some exciting projects in the pipeline we’d hope this gains some more traction. However, it’s not a certain home run – content is expensive to produce and competition is fierce.”

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