In an earnings call following the release of ITV’s full-year results on Thursday, the executive was asked about any ambitions to potentially succeed BBC director general Tony Hall, who will depart the role by July. McCall’s response was definitive: “I can say it is not something I’m considering.”
Elsewhere, the broadcaster revealed that BritBox U.S., which has now surpassed one million users, will expand to Australia. Meanwhile, BritBox U.K. will also look to grow in 2020, with priorities for the year including “growing distribution, strengthening the content offering and continuing to deliver effective marketing.”
BritBox U.K.’s pipeline for the year includes the addition of Channel 4 content in Q2, Film4 titles in Q3, and its revival of Avalon’s “Spitting Image” in Q4, as previously reported.
“With our EE distribution partnership going live in Q1 and BritBox U.K. becoming available on YouView and all Freeview Play devices in Q2, BritBox U.K. will be available on 20 million U.K. TV screens in the spring,” said McCall. “Our marketing will be very focused around these planned content and distribution launches.”
The U.K. SVOD’s venture losses were £21 million ($27 million) in 2019, while losses in 2020 will be in the range of £55 million ($70 million) to £60 million ($77 million).
ITV delivered lower earnings and advertising revenues in 2019, but was boosted by growth for ITV Studios.
The business posted revenues of £3.31 billion ($4.26 billion) — up 3% on 2018’s £3.21 billion ($4.13 billion) — but reported a 1.5% drop in advertising revenues to £1.77 billion ($2.28 billion).
Adjusted EBITDA was also down 10% to £729 million ($938 million), compared to 2018’s £810 million ($1.04 billion), while adjusted EPS was down 10% at 13.9p, compared to 15.4p in 2018.
The business was boosted by production-distribution arm ITV Studios, for whom adjusted EBITDA rose 5% to £267 million ($343 million). Its organic revenues were up 9%, with external revenues up by 12%.
Total ITV Studios revenues — across the U.K., U.S. and international production arms and global distribution — sat at £1.82 billion ($2.34 billion).
Elsewhere, ITV broadcast revenues were down 2% to £2.06 billion ($2.66 billion), with adjusted EBITDA down 17% to £462 million ($594 million).
McCall said: “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.”
In its outlook for 2020, the CEO said the business remains “on track” to deliver medium-term targets, and has begun the year with strong online viewing, up 89% due to entertainment import “The Masked Singer” — whose February finale was watched by 6.4 million in the U.K. — as well as the first winter edition of “Love Island.”
McCall said total advertising revenue is expected to be up 2% in Q1, though early forecasting indicates total advertising revenue will be down 10% in April. The business cited an “impact from travel advertising deferments” in March and April relating to the coronavirus.
While ITV said it is still too early to assess “further implications” of the coronavirus outbreak, it is monitoring the situation closely.