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U.K. TV giant ITV reported its full-year advertising revenue record for 2021 on Thursday and painted a very healthy post-pandemic picture across the board.
The company, led by CEO Carolyn McCall, saw total external revenue soar 24 percent to 3.4 billion pounds ($4.6 billion), a sharp rise on the COVID-impacted 2020 figure of 2.7 billion pounds. Total revenue at its production arm ITV Studios grew by 28 percent to 1.7 billion pounds, now just 2 percent below 2019’s pre-pandemic levels. ITV Studios external revenue was up 30 percent to 1.17 billion pounds. At the group’s media and entertainment arm, total revenue climbed by 21 percent to 2.282 pounds, with advertising revenues up by 24 percent, the highest in ITV’s history (of which video on demand advertising was up by 41 percent).
Alongside the financial results, ITV also announced plans to “supercharge” its streaming business with a “digital first” content strategy, and announced the U.K.’s first AVOD/SVOD platform. ITVX, as it will be called, is set to launch in the fourth quarter, with viewers able to watch thousands of hours of content for free in an advertising-funded tier or choose a subscription service that provides all that content ad-free, and in addition provides thousands more hours of British box sets from BritBox and other partners’ content. The digital-first windowing strategy will see most new content premiere first on ITVX before moving to ITV’s linear channels months later.
This streaming push is part of a target to double digital revenues to 750 million pounds ($1 billion) by 2026, with ITV committing to a digital-first content investment for ITVX of 20 million pounds ($27 million) this year, rising to 160 million pounds ($214 million) in 2023. It said that incremental annual revenue would cover the cost of ITVX by 2026
“ITV delivered an outstanding financial performance in 2021 with total external revenue growth of 24 percent and adjusted EPS [earnings per share] growth of 40 percent, fueled by strong performance in both our divisions,” said McCall. “ITV Studios has enjoyed both ratings and critical success and currently has around 500 programmes in production in the UK and internationally. Media and entertainment kept viewers and advertisers alike happy with a compelling slate of entertainment shows and dramas and must-watch sport across ITV’s channels and streaming. Total advertising revenue saw a record year and within this video on demand advertising was up 41 percent.”
Production arm ITV Studios recorded a revenue gain for 2021 after the unit was trending 32 percent ahead of 2020 after the first nine months. The division has produced “the biggest dramas of (2021) so far on both the BBC and ITV and revenue from streamers globally is growing very strongly,” McCall said late last year. Among its shows last year were the likes of Snowpiercer for Netflix, Ten Year Old Tom for HBO Max, Physical for Apple TV+, Vigil for BBC One, The Long Call and Endeavour for ITV, as well as global hit show Love Island.
McCall in November also argued that ITV’s financial trends last year “illustrate that ITV has successfully completed the first phase of its More Than TV strategy and is accelerating the second phase of digital transformation as we evolve our products, user experiences and ways of working.”
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