ITV warns of tough start to 2019 as annual earnings fall

Broadcasting giant ITV has posted a fall in annual earnings and warned that sales and profits will come under pressure amid Brexit uncertainty.

The group booked a 4% drop in underlying earnings to £810 million for 2018.

It said Brexit woes are set to see total advertising fall 3%-4% over the first four months of 2019, with sales and profits set to be hit in the half-year as it also comes up against tough comparatives from last year’s Football World Cup boost.

The figures came as the company said it was in the “concluding phase” of discussions with the BBC over a new on-demand platform called BritBox to rival the likes of Netflix and is working towards a formal agreement.

ITV will invest up to £25 million in the venture this year and around £40 million in 2020.

Chief executive Carolyn McCall said: “We have started 2019 with strong onscreen and online viewing.

“However, the economic and political headwinds for the UK will have an effect on the advertising market and, while ITV is increasingly diversified, we remain sensitive to this.

“We continue to be very focused on delivering in the areas we can control and actively mitigating the factors outside the company’s control.”

On a statutory basis, ITV reported a 13% rise in pre-tax profits to £567 million for 2018.