MIPCOM: ITV Sees Ad Growth After Stabilizing Schedule

Downton Abbey Still - H 2015
Courtesy of BBC America

“TV is still the best way of reaching a mass audience. Internet companies would love to have what we have," CEO Adam Crozier told the audience at MIPCOM.

ITV CEO Adam Crozier said the company has stabilized its schedule after huge ratings declines in late 2014 and early 2015, when the network saw audience erosion of nearly 4 percent on its main channel, and up to 22 percent throughout its family of channels.

“We definitely had a not so good moment in the beginning of this year, and we concentrate less on summer because advertising goes down, but we have managed to stabilized our decline,” he said during his keynote speech on MIPCOM's first day. He cited the return of Downton Abbey and the ongoing Rugby World Cup as big boosters for the company's British broadcasting arm. "We are in a good position for the autumn and going into next year."

The company had doubled down on drama after taking a financial hit in 2008, and Crozier noted that the dramas were not what caused the ratings slide earlier this year.

It wasn’t the “glamorous stuff” like scripted drama, he said, but soaps, sports and factual that atypically underperformed. The U.S. has propped up the company’s revenues as half now come from outside the U.K.

Five years ago the company had no scripted teams in the U.S. and just 3 in the U.K., Crozier noted. Today they have 15 labels working on scripted content. They continue to be the largest supplier of non-scripted programming in the U.S. across 45 channels, including hits like Pawn Stars. "The investment from that stage is just coming down the pipeline," he said.

What has helped build the scripted content business in the U.S. is the company’s double play as both a broadcaster in its native UK and as a program supplier. “We instinctively know what broadcasters are looking for and we can also work in partnership, but we don’t compete with the broadcaster in their market. Therefore we can work with all the networks.”

On the spate of recent acquisitions, including The Voice and Utopia producer Talpa Media for $530 million earlier this year, he said: “The first thing is to see those deals as talent deals, its about having the best creative talent working as part of ITV.”

Half of their creative product growth has come been organic from inside the company and half from acquisitions, he added.

After a “relatively flat” five years, the company is also seeing ad revenue bounce back as the U.K. economy improves.

“TV is still the best way of reaching a mass audience. Internet companies would love to have what we have. That’s why they talk about targeting. They don’t have that reach,” he said of the massive numbers shows such as X-Factor or Britain’s Got Talent bring in. ITV’s targeting is in programming and specialized channels focused on women or sports, for example.

Crozier also hinted that ITV’s acquisition spree may be on hold as revenues stabilize. “We have said very clearly and openly that our shareholders are open to it. If the right companies are there with the right talent and the right idea  of how we can help them in the future we will always be open to opportunities. But our focus is on growing what we have.”