Coronavirus: ITV profits plunge as COVID-19 hammers income

ITV saw its profits almost wiped out after the coronavirus pandemic hammered its main sources of income.

However, the broadcaster’s boss Dame Carolyn McCall said her company was now seeing an “upward trajectory”, with productions restarting and advertisers returning.

The company expects to pour around £960m into its programming this year.

But despite many people being sat at home during the COVID-19 lockdown leading to a rise in television viewing, ITV took a major hit, with ad revenue for the second quarter dropping 43%.

The group said profit before tax plummeted 93% to £15m in the first half of the financial year, on revenue of £1.45bn.

As a result, the board decided to scrap the dividend in a push to save cash.

Dame Carolyn said: “This has been one of the most challenging times in the history of ITV.”

She added: “While our two main sources of revenue – production and advertising – were down significantly in the first half of the year and the outlook remains uncertain, today we are seeing an upward trajectory with productions restarting and advertisers returning to take advantage of our highly effective mass reach and addressable advertising platform, in a brand safe environment.”

The broadcaster said subscribers for BritBox, the streaming service launched by the ITV and BBC which will see satirical puppet show Spitting Image return this year, were ahead of target, but it did not give figures.

Analysts at Barclays said the market would take that to mean numbers were weak.

Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor, said: “Enforced lockdown from the pandemic was a golden opportunity for broadcasters given a largely captive audience, but to a large degree this has not filtered through to ITV.”

And with the company’s share price languishing, down 60% this year, there is renewed speculation over whether someone could launch a bid to buy the broadcaster, he said.

Mr Hunter added: “ITV’s reliance on traditional advertising revenue is something of a thorn in its side.

“Companies understandably pulled back from advertising goods that they could not sell and, in any event, given the fact that costs became a priority, the advertising budget is often the first to give way.”

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