ITV posts 6% Q1 revenue hike to $663 mil

CEO Adam Crozier warns of tough times ahead

LONDON -- ITV'S incoming chief executive Adam Crozier has warned of tough economic times ahead for the broadcaster, despite unveiling a 6% rise in revenues to £450 million ($663 million) over the first three months of the year.

Crozier, who took his place earlier this month, outlined a host of positive indicators for the commercial broadcaster, including an 8% hike in television advertising revenue in the first quarter and a prediction of a 22% year-on-year ad revenue increase. Crozier said external revenues from its production division ITV Studios were up 7% at £60 million ($88 million), and that revenue from broadcast and online revenues had increased to £390 million ($575 million) over the period.

But the former retail and sport boss remained all too aware that ITV's performance is heavily dependent on the market confidence that is being buffeted by the turbulent headwinds blowing through Europe on fears over key economies such as Greece.

The fears have wiped out some of the gains ITV's share price has made in recent weeks, with the stock down to 58 pence Friday after trading at a two-year high of 72 pence earlier this month.

Crozier was at pains to show that last year's gains were only positive compared to the 2008/9 financial year, where the economy hit rock bottom.

"ITV's financial performance over the first quarter reflects growth in U.K. television advertising following last year's record declines," Crozier said, adding that advertising revenue growth for the first half had to be seen in the context of declines of 15% for the equivalent period in 2009 as well as the positive impact relating to the Soccer World Cup next month.

"The outlook for the latter part of 2010 and early 2011 is tough with more testing year-on-year comparators and uncertain market conditions post-election. Crozier warned that the British advertising economy was "also highly exposed to the uncertain economic outlook post-election."

ITV will maintain investment in programming and online over the second half to provide a stronger platform into 2011 and was maintaining its 3-5 year turnaround plan.
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