Broadcaster ITV posts loss of $23.5 mil

New CEO announcement expected 'very soon'

LONDON -- Commercial broadcaster ITV on Thursday swung to a loss of £14 million ($23.5 million) for the first six months of the year from £91 million ($152 million) at the same stage last year, on revenue down £122 million ($204 million) at £909 million ($1.5 billion).

Despite reporting a pension deficit ballooning to £538 million ($902 million) from £178 million ($298 million) a year ago, shares in the broadcaster behind such shows as "X Factor" and "Coronation Street" went up 7% to 45 pence ($0.75) in early trading on results marginally ahead of analyst expectations.

Executive chairman Michael Grade said the ITV board expects to make an announcement about the next chief executive "very soon," but he declined comment on any possible candidates.

He said the company was "managing through" while protecting the core business from the "worst year-on-year decline on record" for the first half of the year, which saw U.K. net advertising revenue fall by 17%.

Grade said ITV's own ad revenue decline of 15% was "ahead of the market" and said the rate of advertising decline was slowing, forecasting that Q3 advertising will be down 12%.

Grade said the broadcaster had held its peak-time audience.

ITV said it has delivered more than a third of the £155 million ($260 million) cost savings promised in March and said it had sold its ailing social networking business Friends Reunited for £25 million ($42), having bought the subscription service for £175 million ($294 million).

Grade said the service had been acquired under the previous management regime.

"ITV bought it. This management team did not buy it," Grade said in a conference call.

"It was regarded at the time as a good price. But the market has changed dramatically. You may have noticed but there's a recession on. It's the best price we could get."
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