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ITV sees early signs of recovery

First half results beat expectations

ITV, the U.K.’s largest commercial broadcaster, reported a lower-than-expected drop in first-half operating profit on Wednesday amid signs that the web is fi-nally recovering from its ratings and revenue slump.

Presenting his first set of results since jumping ship from the BBC late last year, executive chairman Michael Grade told analysts, “We still have some way to go to turn this business around, but there are some encouraging signs.”

Operating profit in the six months to June 30 fell to £151 million ($307 million) from some $400 million a year ago. Analysts had predicted a bigger drop to about $287 million.

Blighty’s advertising market was flat during the period, but ITV is estimating a 1% increase in ad revenue in the third quarter for flagship channel ITV1, rising to 4% across all its channels.

ITV1 regained audience share in the afternoons, and the June finale of “Britain’s Got Talent” attracted 11.6 million viewers — making it the most popular new entertainment show of the year on any channel.

Overall, audience share was down 5.6% year on year, but the channel performed better than its commercial rivals, Channel 4 and Five, which were down 10.3% and 8.1%, respectively.

However, Grade also noted that the broadcaster had been hit by the string of phone-in scandals and allegations of fakery in TV programs. As a result, interac-tive and call TV revenues were down $42.8 million.

A review of premium-rate phone-in competitions on ITV is being carried out by auditors Deloitte and the findings and any “remedial action” will be published in October.

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