“It is all good news on the drama front,” said McCall, during a Thursday morning earnings call. Although ITV declared revenue declines across the board in its half-year results, the chief executive was upbeat about the company’s scripted production activities. “It is looking much more positive than it was a month ago.”
Ratings driver “Love Island” begins shooting again from September for U.S. broadcaster CBS, while “Suburra” and “Summertime” have also begun, and “Gomorrah” is in pre-production.
Of the 230 productions that were impacted or paused by the lockdown, around 70% have been delivered or are now back in production, including “Coronation Street” and “Emmerdale.”
The recently announced U.K. government insurance fund for film and TV production is going to be very helpful, McCall said. “It is going to give producers the confidence to start dramas again, in a way that without insurance would have been very, very difficult,” said McCall.
Of the nearly 1,000 ITV staff furloughed during lockdown, all but 300 are now back at work, McCall added.
Speaking about viewership during lockdown, the CEO said, “What was reinforcing actually during the pandemic is how all viewing went up. All aspects of TV, whether that was comedy, drama, especially news, factual programming, that all went up. So did streaming. So, whether that was Netflix or BritBox, in that respect viewing in COVID was strong across the board. I think what has happened is that it’s been reassuring for many people in Britain that the public service broadcasters have been able to inform them throughout.”
McCall also highlighted the intense content demand during the pandemic. “The global [demand] for content, which is what we are in, will grow between 3-5%. In addition to that, we are investing in [ITV] Hub to make sure that the core content that we do can get to as many places, and easily and as quickly as possible. And we can then monetize it.”
Overall, McCall is bullish about long-term growth prospects despite the debilitating effects of the coronavirus pandemic. “Our entire strategy is about growing. [ITV] Studios is a great business; direct-to-consumer is a great business. We started BritBox from scratch for the precise reason [that] we believe it is going to be a growth business,” said McCall.
“There’s a whole range of activities that we’re involved in which will set us up for growth, coming out of COVID,” the CEO continued. “We have the ability to build the business and create value, going forward.”