U.K.'s ITV Reports Higher Full-Year Earnings, Announces Special Dividend

Dan Stevens Matthew Crawley Downton Abbey S2 - H 2012

Dan Stevens Matthew Crawley Downton Abbey S2 - H 2012

The company, whose flagship network airs "Downton Abbey" and "X Factor," posted strong growth at content arm ITV Studios, while ad revenue was flat.

LONDON - U.K. commercial TV network group ITV on Wednesday reported improved financials for the full year 2012.

The company, which airs hit drama Downton Abbey and such shows as X Factor on its flagship network, said it continued to outperform the overall U.K. TV advertising market in the fourth quarter, hitting its goal of flat ad revenue for the full year. And it said it would pay out a $235 million (£156 million) special dividend.

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It also highlighted a positive start to 2013, with first-quarter advertising revenue expected to be up 5 percent. Year-over-year growth comparisons will become more difficult in the second quarter.

The firm's ITV Studios content production arm continued to grow and reported a 17 percent revenue gain for 2012 to $1.07 billion (£712 million). It made good on a management promise to bring in more than £100 million of operating profit last year with £107 million ($162 million), up 29 percent.

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ITV posted a pre-tax profit of $525 million (£348 million), up 6 percent from 2011. Adjusted profit before tax, which excludes special items and impairment, among other things,  rose 17 percent to $701 million (£464 million). External revenue for 2012 rose 3 percent to $3.32 billion (£2.20 billion), with total revenue up 5 percent to $3.85 billion (£2.55 billion).

"We're now almost three years into our transformation plan and our strong performance is delivering growth right across ITV, enabling us to build a stronger and more balanced business.," said ITV CEO Adam Crozier. "In 2012, we achieved double digit earnings growth for the third year running, in a broadly flat advertising market…Although ITV family share of viewing fell by 3 percent due to the unprecedented number of major one-off events [such as the Summer Olympics broadcast on the BBC], we do not expect it to impact our ad performance in 2013, and the advertising deals we have secured support this view.

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