ITV, the British broadcaster behind hits including Love Island and The Voice UK, suffered a £156 million ($215M) blow to its earnings during the height of the coronavirus crisis, as the pandemic hit the ad market and shut down production.
ITV’s adjusted EBITA stood at £573M in the full-year of 2020, down 21% on £729M in 2019. Total group revenue dropped 16% to nearly £3.3 billion over the same period of time, according to financial results published Tuesday. Earnings per share fell 22% to 10.9 pence.
ITV CEO Carolyn McCall acknowledged the drop in performance, but said the company still outstripped forecasts. “While total revenues and profits were down our financial performance was ahead of expectations driven by a strong end to Q4 and our firm control over costs,” she said.
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Ad revenue was £1.57B for the year, meaning it sunk 11% compared with 2019’s £1.76B. Having said that, ITV pointed to encouraging signs in Q4, when ad revenue was up 3% on 2019. The broadcaster predicts ad sales will fall 6% in Q1, but it is now seeing “positive trends,” with April expected to be up between 60% and 75%. Viewing to ITV channels sunk 4%, while streaming was also down 5% after the cancellation of sports events and summer Love Island.
ITV Studios had a difficult 12 months after 230 of its shows were impacted or delayed by Covid-19. The production arm’s revenue plummeted £452M, or a quarter, to £1.37B. EBITA was down 43% to £152M as the cost of remounting shoots took its toll. ITV said 90% of shows are back in production after the industry opened up again last summer. ITV Studios trumpeted commissions including a third season renewal of SnowPiercer at TNT and Netflix, and CBS’s commitment to Love Island in the U.S.
Amid the difficulties of the pandemic, ITV stripped £116M of cost out of the business, which was nearly double the guidance of £60M. “ITV took swift action from the very beginning of the pandemic and worked with real determination to successfully manage and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 while continuing to invest in our future,” McCall said.
Elsewhere, the company revealed that BritBox, its joint-venture streamer with the BBC, now has 2.6M subscribers across the world. This includes a 50% increase in users in the U.S. and Canada. BritBox UK, which boasts originals including Spitting Image, hit half-a-million subscribers in January. “BritBox UK has seen good growth in subscriptions in the year, and as expected, the lockdown restrictions along with the increase in content and distribution of the service, increased the number of customers signing up for the free trial period. We have continued to see strong subscriber appeal and in January 2021,” ITV said.