X Factor boosts profits for ITV

X FactorThe popularity of The X Factor and Downton Abbey has helped profits rise 24% at ITV but the broadcaster warned advertising revenues have dropped in early 2012.

ITV, which is also home to Coronation Street, said profits rose to £398 million in 2011 after it gained market share, driven by the strong performance of its digital channels, although there was a 1% decline at its flagship ITV1.
The group said there were signs of improvement in its studios business, which increased revenues by 10% and has sold its Titanic drama to 86 countries ahead of its release this year. But while advertising revenues were up 1% in 2011, outperforming the market, it expects a 2% fall in the first quarter of 2012 as marketing budgets are hit by the economic slowdown.

Chief executive Adam Crozier, who joined ITV from Royal Mail in 2010, has launched a five-year plan to turn the business around, involving growing its online revenues and making more of its own programmes. He said the plan is beginning to pay off, as non-advertising revenues increased 11% to £922 million.

The studios business saw a 28% increase in new commissions to 111, with 45 sold overseas as well as in the UK. Titanic, written by Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the disaster, has already proved a big seller.

The studios business enjoyed a 10% increase in revenues, although profits only rose 2% as it invested £8 million in its growth. It will continue to expand and may look to snap up rivals in coming years, ITV said. And more people are watching ITV's programmes online through the ITV Player.

It has recently signed deals with satellite broadcaster Sky, internet download service Netflix and Amazon's Lovefilm that will allow people to pay to watch its programmes.

Mr Crozier said: "We're now almost two years into our five-year transformation plan and our continued growth in revenue and profit - at a time when the advertising market is broadly flat - demonstrates that we're performing in line with our strategic priorities. ITV Studios, under the new management team, has made real progress creatively and operationally both in the UK and internationally."

Profits were boosted after the company found £20 million of cost savings - higher than the £15 million it originally projected - and it has identified a further £20 million of savings for 2012. The company has net cash for the first time since it was created in 2004.

However, the company admitted that ITV1 was not "where we want it to be" after a 1% decline in its share of the market, despite the launch of ITV1+1, which repeats the channel an hour later. Advertising revenues are set to fall in the first quarter although they have performed better than hoped and ITV expects a flat performance in April.
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