Crime dramas Des and Honour have helped ITV to record only slightly lower advertising revenues in recent months despite the suspension of many productions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Earnings from ads were up 3 per cent year-on-year in August compared to a 23 per cent drop in July, and a 43 per cent plunge in the second quarter of the year when England had just entered its first national lockdown.
Total advertising revenues in the fourth quarter are now expected to be ‘slightly up’ on last year, including a 6 per cent rise this month.
Des, starring David Tennant as serial killer Dennis Nielsen, was a popular ITV crime drama
ITV reported though that from January to September, they fell 16 per cent to £1.86billion as production on multiple television shows was suspended or cut back, and many companies cut back on their ad budgets.
More viewers did tune in to watch live television though as work from home became the norm for millions of British workers and restrictions were put on eating out and visiting entertainment venues like cinemas.
However, the FTSE 250 firm said online figures dropped 6 per cent due to the lack of a summer Love Island series and fewer episodes from popular soaps such as Coronation Street and Emmerdale.
Its family audience share also declined by one percentage point, which the group put down to the BBC’s extensive coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
Social distancing, national lockdowns, and other coronavirus-related measures are forecast to continue affecting the company’s income. But the group’s production arm, ITV Studios, has now resumed filming on most of its productions.
Chief executive Carolyn McCall said the company is ‘seeing encouraging signs’ in both its broadcast and Studios divisions, but admitted that current regulations ‘are making it challenging to bring ITV Studios productions back to full capacity.
ITV hope the new series of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!, which is now being filmed in Wales instead of Australia due to travel curbs, could deliver a boon for them this winter
‘Advertising trends are improving with Q4 forecast to be slightly up year on year and 85 per cent of our productions in the UK and internationally that were paused as a result of Covid-19 are back in production or have been delivered.’
Three months ago, Ms McCall declared that the business had experienced ‘one of the most challenging times’ in its existence and the group decided to get rid of its interim dividend to help shore up its finances.
ITV hope the new series of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!, which is now being filmed in Wales instead of Australia due to travel curbs, could deliver a boon for them this winter.
Viewers have already tuned in in their droves to watch the environmental-themed shows Prime William’s A Planet for Us All and John Bishop’s Great Whale Rescue, as well as psychological thriller The Sister.
ITV drama Honour told the story of the honour killing of Banaz Mahmod and the investigation led by DCI Caroline Goode (played by Keeley Hawes) to bring her killers to justice
BritBox US has also benefited from the huge growth in subscribers to on-demand video services, of which it has more than 1.5 million, about 500,000 more than it had in March.
AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould remarked: ‘ITV will hope that the lockdown experience will have boosted the attractions of the television medium to both viewers…and the advertisers who want eyeballs on their products and services.
‘In this context, it’s somewhat disappointing to see a modest drop in the company’s audience share but this was probably inevitable given people will often go to the BBC for their news and there has been more than enough news to consume.
‘The production side of the business, an area of priority in recent years as the company looks to reduce its reliance on volatile ad spend, is moving towards normality although the new lockdown in England won’t help.’
Shares in ITV plc were up 0.3 per cent to 90p soon after midday.