ITV warns over first half ad fall after Brexit-hit start to 2019

Line Of Duty and Love Island broadcaster ITV has warned it expects half-year advertising revenues to tumble by 6% after Brexit uncertainty hit first quarter trading.

The group reported a 7% drop in ad revenues for the first quarter, which it blamed on Brexit worries impacting demand for advertising, as well as the timing of Easter.

Revenues dropped as much as 16% in March and are set to plummet by around 20% in June as ITV also comes up against an “exceptionally strong” June 2018, which was boosted by the Football World Cup.

This will leave first half total ITV advertising 6% lower, it cautioned.

But chief executive Carolyn McCall said the first quarter performance was “very much as we expected”.

She added the group is hoping a strong line-up of shows – such as the return of popular dating reality show Love Island – will help keep it on track for the full-year.

Online revenues are also expected to see double-digit growth over the year.

“We remain confident that we will deliver good organic revenue growth in ITV Studios over the full year and have already secured over £120 million more revenue for 2019 than at the same time last year,” she said.

“We have a solid slate of new and returning programmes in the UK and internationally including Snowpiercer, World On Fire, Line Of Duty – this year’s most watched programme in the UK – Zero Zero Zero, Hell’s Kitchen, Love Island and I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!”

First quarter figures showed total external revenues dropped 4% to £743 million for the first three months of 2019, with the advertising revenue decline offsetting a 1% rise in ITV Studios turnover.

April ad revenues rose 8%, leaving the figures down 3% for the first four months of the year.

But ad revenues are forecast to be down 2% in May followed by a tough June, it said.

ITV warned in February that Brexit woes are set to see total advertising fall 3% to 4% over the first four months of 2019.

In its first quarter update, ITV also confirmed it remains on schedule to launch new streaming service BritBox – BBC and ITV’s answer to Netflix in the UK – in the second half of the year.