Travel firms pull TV ads over coronavirus outbreak

ITV has warned that its advertising revenues are being hit by the outbreak of coronavirus as travel companies pull their ads from TV.

The broadcaster said it has already felt the pinch in March, and is expecting a 10% drop in ad revenue in April.

It comes as the company reported a 1.5% drop in full-year advertising revenue in 2019, although that is better than the 2% fall it had previously forecast.

Pre-tax profit fell by 7% to £530 million, on revenue of £3.9 billion, up 3%.

ITV said it is too early to tell how big the overall impact of coronavirus will be.

It still expects ad revenue to grow by 2% in the first three months of the year; however this does not include April.

The disease has spread around the world since it was first discovered in China late last year. Almost 100,000 people are now thought to have been infected, with several thousand deaths reported.

ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall said the company is trying to build a stronger business in an industry which is “changing rapidly”.

“Thanks to the hard work of our teams across the business, our full-year results have come in ahead of expectations helped by revenue growth in the second half of the year in ITV Studios, advertising and online.

“We are making good progress in each area of our strategy and our investments in data, technology, online and in streaming will enable ITV to be a sustainable, diversified and structurally-sound digital media and entertainment business.”

Online viewing is up by 89% so far this year, driven by the success of the Masked Singer and Love Island with the online audience.

ITV also said that BritBox UK is “on plan” after being launched in November last year. Its US version of the service now has more than one million subscribers, while ITV Hub+ has over 400,000.

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