U.K. broadcaster ITV’s annual results were announced Tuesday and the picture is that of a business severely impacted by COVID-19, but there are plenty of green shoots.
Total external revenue was down 16%. ITV Studios total revenues were down 25%, impacted by the disruption to the majority of ITV productions from March 2020 when the first U.K. lockdown was declared. Total broadcast revenues were down by 8%, with total advertising down 11%. Advertising revenues showed a slight uptick in the last quarter of 2020 before declining again in January, and ITV expects steady growth from April.
Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, and amortization (EBITA) was down 21% at £573 million ($792.4 million), which the broadcaster said was better than external expectations. Of this, the most severely impacted was ITV Studios where adjusted EBITA was down 43% to £152 million ($210.2 million), impacted by the decline in revenue and the costs associated with COVID-19 safety measures. However, ITV reported £116 million ($160.8 million) in overhead cost savings.
On a positive note, streamer BritBox U.K, which ITV runs with BBC Studios, is ahead of the company’s business plan hitting 500,000 subscriptions in January 2021. BritBox U.S. subscriptions increased by 50% over the year and the streamer now has over 2.6 million subscriptions globally, with a launch in South Africa planned for later this year.
“Throughout this last year, we have all been dealing with the effects of the pandemic. As the U.K.’s largest commercial network, we’ve worked hard to fulfil our responsibility as a source of reliable and trusted news and to deliver some of the best entertainment into the country’s homes,” said ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall.
“While total revenues and profits were down our financial performance was ahead of expectations driven by a strong end to Q4 and our firm control over costs,” McCall added.
McCall also struck a note of caution. “However, there remains uncertainty in all markets around the world with the potential risk of lockdowns, which if they materialise will affect revenues,” McCall said.