Page last updated at 15:42 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 16:42 UK

ITV hit by advertising slowdown

Kylie Minogue singing on ITV
ITV is hoping big name stars such as Kylie Minogue can attract viewers

Broadcaster ITV says profits fell 28% in the first half of the year, and that its advertising revenues will be flat across the first eight months of 2008.

It also says advertising revenues will fall 20% in September against 2007, when it broadcast the Rugby World Cup.

Adjusted pre-tax profit was £91m for the six-month period, but allowing for one-off charges it made a £1.54bn loss.

ITV boss Michael Grade said that the firm may give up its public service broadcaster status to help cut costs.

"I think we have a future as a public service broadcaster provided that we can get Ofcom and the government to realise very, very quickly that we cannot afford to pay more than the licence and the public service broadcaster (PSB) status is worth," he said.

He added that the regulator Ofcom estimated the cost to be about £45m a year.

"It's presently costing us over £220m a year," Mr Grade said.

"If we can't get quick resolution to that then, obviously, as Ofcom itself outlined in its recent consultation paper, there is an option for ITV to give up its public service status," he continued.

"We don't want to do that."

ITV's shares fell 5.8% to close at 43.6 pence in London.

Ad revenue 'holding up'

The broadcaster is facing severe advertising budget cuts in the UK, and is having to deal with significant shifts in market conditions.

It said that the 28% drop in profit was largely due to a charge of £1.6bn made as it wrote down the value of assets bought in 2000 and 2004.

Multi-channel competition against ITV has been a nightmare for this founder of commercial broadcasting for years
Robert Peston, BBC business editor

As a result the company has targeted an extra £35m of cost savings by the end of 2010.

ITV executive chairman Mr Grade said ITV was "not immune to wider economic pressures".

He added: "Despite some dire predictions UK television advertising held up relatively well over the first half of the year and through the summer."

ITV estimates that total net advertising revenue for the eight months to August will be down 1% year-on-year, with ITV plc net advertising revenue flat.

"However, on current estimates the television advertising market has weakened significantly in September, where trading is impacted by tough comparisons with the successful Rugby World Cup in 2007," Mr Grade said.

ITV's sports costs were up £29m compared with last year, primarily due to the cost of broadcasting Euro 2008 football matches.

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

However, sport was one of the areas where ITV continued to perform well, with the UEFA Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea achieving an audience of 10 million viewers.

ITV's net advertising was actually up 1% over the first six months of the year, and its viewing share up 2.5%.

Tough competition

BBC business editor Robert Peston said cost-cutting was now the order of the day at ITV, as it finds the bill for living up to its obligations as the leading licensed commercial broadcaster financially onerous.

"Multi-channel competition against ITV has been a nightmare for this founder of commercial broadcasting for years," he said.

"What makes this nightmare almost unbearable is the economic slowdown weíre all experiencing Ė manifest in ITVís expectation that its net TV advertising revenue will be 20% lower in September."

And our correspondent said that the impairment charge of £1.6bn was "simply the unavoidable recognition that the businesses brought together to create ITV in 2000 and 2004 are worth a great deal less now than they were".


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