Grade: Advertisers, viewers return to ITV

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ITV executive chairman Michael Grade talked up the commercial broadcaster's audience and ratings revival Wednesday as it reported a 35% pretax profit drop and 5% revenue decline for 2007.

Grade said that despite the weak share price and the lower financial results, the turnaround plan he unveiled in the summer was "on track" to transform the business during the next three to five years.

Revenue amounted to £2.2 billion ($4.3 billion) in the 12 months ending Dec. 31 as pretax profit came in at £188 million ($372 million).

ITV said that 2007 revenue was hit by a reduction in quiz TV call revenue, which was down £58 million ($114.7 million), and a slide of £37 million ($73.2 million) at the content division.

ITV net advertising revenue was flat at £1.5 billion ($3 billion), while its digital channels reported a 33% increase to £209 million ($413.6 million).

Grade said the total audience share for ITV's family of channels, including core network ITV1 and digital webs ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4, had increased for the first time since the late 1990s, rising from 23.1% in 2006 to 23.2% in 2007.

"Viewers are coming back to ITV, and advertisers are following them," he said. "People who had deserted ITV are coming back, viewing share is coming back. Don't forget that we are outperforming our rivals."

Grade said the broadcaster's turnaround plan had the support of shareholders.

"The share price is the share price is the share price; I can't worry about it presently," he said. "We have the confidence of our shareholders, and the numbers will follow."

ITV's shares had fallen to an all-time low of 62 pence ($1.23) this week and fell after the earnings release Wednesday. They later recovered and closed up up 67 pence ($1.34).
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