ITV ad revenue dips 12.5%

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LONDON -- ITV announced Tuesday that net advertising revenue for its core channel dropped 12.5% this year, with the network's share of commercial impacts (when one viewer watches one advertisement) down 10.4%, giving it just over a third of all U.K. television commercial impacts.

In an end-of-year trading statement to the London Stock Exchange, the broadcaster said that the year's trading had been "in line" with current expectations but conceded that the future for airtime sales "remains challenging."

But interim chief executive John Cresswell welcomed the appointment of Michael Grade to the post of executive chairman and said that digital channels were showing strong growth.

ITV's digital channel portfolio grew its net advertising revenue by 40% for the year.

"2006 trading remains in line with current market expectations and, whilst the airtime sales environment remains challenging, our digital channels continue to perform strongly," Cresswell said in a statement. "I am delighted to welcome Michael Grade as executive chairman of ITV and we look forward to working with him in the New Year."

Program investment next year will not be cut as some had predicted, but will be maintained at £1 billion ($2 billion). ITV1's total budget will be £815 million ($1.6 billion), with the balance invested in digital channels and regional programming.

ITV1 said it remains the U.K.'s most popular channel in peak time, with an average peak-time share of 27.3%, compared to BBC1 (24.5%), BBC 2 (9.3%), Channel 4 (8.8%) and the Five channel (5.6%). Since ITV's autumn schedule began, its peak-time share has increased to 29%.

"ITV Prods. has had a successful year with eight out of the top 10 shows on ITV1 made by ITV Prods.," the statement said. "Production revenue outside ITV1 is growing strongly both in the U.K. and internationally. We have also seen good growth in our international secondary program sales and in ancillary revenues."
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