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U.K. TV giant ITV reported its first-quarter revenue on Wednesday, including a 16 percent jump in advertising revenue to 468 million pounds ($578 million).
The company, led by CEO Carolyn McCall, also said its production arm ITV Studios saw revenue increase 23 percent in the opening period of 2022 to 458 million pounds ($565 million) and touted a 24 percent increase in digital revenue to 82 million pounds ($101 million). Total ITV revenue for the first quarter grew 18 percent to 834 million pounds ($1.03 billion).
ITV had earlier in the year predicted a first-quarter ad revenue of around 16 percent, as reported, saying at the time that demand had “remained strong.” On Wednesday, the firm said that the first quarter benefited from “good demand across the majority of advertising sectors,” with January ad revenue growing 15 percent over the year-ago period, February ending up 20 percent and March up 15 percent. “Within this, digital advertising revenue remains very strong, up 27 percent,” ITV said.
However, the company also reiterated previous comments that “advertising comparatives get much tougher in the second quarter and third quarter,” given last year’s Euro soccer tournament. ITV added that it was also “mindful of the macroeconomic and geopolitical uncertainty.”
With that in mind, it forecast that second-quarter ad revenue would be down around 6 percent. That would leave the first half of 2022 up around 5 percent compared to the same period in 2021. “April 2022 total advertising revenue was up 9 percent, and we forecast May to be down around 8 percent and June to be down around 15 percent,” the company detailed.
Compared with 2019, meaning before the coronavirus pandemic, first-quarter ad revenue was up 12 percent, while the second quarter is forecast to be up around 2 percent, which would leave the first half up around 7 percent.
ITV Studios had a “particularly strong” first quarter, “with a wide range of new and returning programs and formats delivered in the U.K. and internationally, including a number of programs delayed from the fourth quarter of 2021,” the company said. Among shows delivered during the period were Holding, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans, Murder in Provence and the second seasons of Physical and Noughts and Crosses.
The studio arm “has an exciting pipeline of scripted and unscripted programs in the second quarter and the remainder of the year,” ITV said and touted its diversification efforts across genres and geographies. “Scripted is growing strongly with programs such as Snowpiercer (USA), The Outlaws (U.K.), The Suspect (U.K.), Django (Italy) and Summertime (Italy). Unscripted programs expected to be delivered this year include Hell’s Kitchen USA, The Chase USA, as well as Love Island in the U.K., USA, Australia, Netherlands, Spain and Germany.”
ITV also highlighted that revenue from streaming platforms globally “continue to grow with development deals or commissions with most of the major streaming platforms, including Inganno and One Piece for Netflix, Love Island USA for Peacock and a Benjamin Franklin drama for AppleTV+.”
Growing its own streaming business is also a big focus for ITV’s team. In March, the company unveiled plans to “supercharge” its streaming business with a “digital first” content strategy. As part of that, it announced ITVX, which it touted as the U.K.’s first AVOD/SVOD platform, which is set to launch in the fourth quarter. Its viewers will be able to watch thousands of hours of content for free on an advertising-funded tier or choose a subscription service that will provide all that content ad-free in addition to thousands additional hours of British box sets from ITV’s streamer BritBox and other partners’ content.
On Wednesday, ITV said it was “continuing to strengthen and evolve ITV’s streaming experience,” highlighting a “significant increase in the content available for streaming with 6,000 hours of content, up from 4,000 at the end of December 2021.” The majority of its scripted programs are now available for streaming in full at the same time as the initial broadcast, it added. “This has helped drive the best-ever start to the year for drama viewing online with 125 million streams for the four months to the end of April, up 8 percent” over the same period in 2021. And the company touted that “Warner content is now available, including titles such as The Sex Lives of College Girls, The OC and One Tree Hill.”
Meanwhile, its BritBox U.K. streaming service “has rolled out an exciting lineup of new original content, including Why Didn’t They Ask Evans and Murder in Provence, growing subscriptions since the beginning of the year,” ITV said without providing further details. “BritBox International is delivering good growth in subscriptions in line with our plan across the U.S., Canada, Australia and South Africa and the recent successful launch in the Nordics.”
All in all, ITV on Wednesday touted its momentum across business lines. “We are focused on the three core drivers of value for ITV,” said McCall. “We are growing Studios with a strong quarter and an exciting pipeline of scripted and unscripted programs as we further diversify the business by genre, by geography and by customer and grow ahead of the market. In Media and Entertainment, we maintained the strength of our linear business, where we secured 93 percent of the largest commercial audiences. And we are making good progress in our goal to supercharge streaming by increasing our hours of content by 50 percent in the quarter to 6,000 hours and making available the majority of scripted programs in full for streaming at the same time as the initial broadcast.”
She added: “All of this provides a solid foundation for ITVX – our free, ad-funded streaming service – which is on track for launch in the fourth quarter, and we remain confident that we will deliver at least £750 million ($925 million) of digital revenue by 2026.”
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