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Carlton narrows losses

ITV Digital drags parent co. into the red

LONDON — ITV company Carlton Communications has posted a first-half loss of £178 million ($259 million), compared with a loss of $413 million for the same period last year, dragged down by its failed pay TV platform ITV Digital.

Sales were down 7.2% to $734 million. In addition, the company suffered a 13% downturn in ad sales in the six months prior to March 31. Carlton said, however, that there were “early signs of a recovery” in the second half.

Carlton said it and fellow ITV company Granada had agreed to invest an additional $36.5 million in ITV1’s programming this year. ITV1, the U.K.’s biggest commercial web, has seen its ratings slide under pressure from the growth of multichannel TV and resurgent pubcaster BBC.

The ITV Digital crash could still impact Carlton and partner Granada, as ITV Digital’s creditors weigh their options.

Britain’s Soccer League is suing the pair for $730 million to compensate for the loss of its broadcasting rights contract with ITV Digital.

Changes to U.K. media ownership regulations will allow for the long-anticipated merger of Carlton and Granada.

But Carlton CEO Gerry Murphy said while that was still “on the agenda,” it was not the only option. There is speculation about a possible takeover by Disney or Germany’s Bertelsmann.