Belfast Telegraph

X Factor and Downton Abbey help boost ITV profits 24%

By Peter Cripps

The popularity of X Factor and Downton Abbey helped profits rise 24% at ITV but the broadcaster warned that advertising revenues have dropped in early 2012.

ITV, which is also home to Coronation Street, said profits rose to £398m in 2011 after it gained market share, driven by the strong performance of its digital channels, although there was a 1% decline at its flagship ITV1.

The group, which is nearly two years into its transformation plan, said there were signs of improvement in its studios business, which increased revenues by 10% and has sold its Titanic drama to 86 countries ahead of its release this year.

But while advertising revenues were up 1% in 2011, outperforming the market, it expects a 2% fall in the first quarter of 2012 as marketing budgets are hit by the economic slowdown.

Chief executive Adam Crozier, who joined ITV from Royal Mail in 2010, has launched a five-year plan to turn the business around, involving growing its online revenues and making more of its own programmes.

The plan aims to leave ITV less exposed to volatile TV ad revenues. He said the plan is beginning to pay off, as non-advertising revenues increased 11% to £922m.

The studios business saw a 28% increase in new commissions to 111, with 45 sold overseas as well as in the UK. Titanic, written by Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes, has already proved a big seller for the company.