ITV, the main commercial broadcaster in the United Kingdom, reported increased revenues and profits in 2015, although its share of viewing fell slightly. While online is growing, it still accounts for a relatively small proportion of viewing and the business generally. The main growth has comes from investment in programme production and international distribution.
The share of viewing of the main ITV channel fell from 15.6% to 15.0%, while across all ITV channels it declined from 22.0% to 21.2%. Its total share of commercial impacts fell from 26.2% to 34.9%.
ITV has been attempting to reduce its reliance on advertising revenue. Nevertheless, net advertising revenue was up 6% in 2015 to £1.72 billion.
In 2015 ITV delivered 98% of all audiences over five million and 93% of all audiences over three million.
ITV is still generating significant profits, with EBITA up 18% to £865 million, a margin of 29%.
Total revenue was up 15% at just under £3 billion. Of this, online, pay and interactive revenues represented just £188 million, up 23% on the previous year. The greatest growth was from programme production through ITV Studios, which now accounts for over 40% of revenues. This reflects increasing investment in broadening the programme production base through the acquisition of production companies.
“ITV uniquely delivers the mass audiences demanded by advertisers,” said Adam Crozier, the chief executive of ITV. “Through our ongoing investment ITV Studios has become a global production business with total revenue up 33% to £1.2bn and with 53% of revenues now coming from outside the UK.
In November, the company launched ITV Hub as the online centre for all its channels and services both live and on demand. ITV says it has 13 million registered users.
ITV said people spent 42% more time watching ITV online in 2015 compared to the previous year, with a 14% increase in long form video requests, from 726 million to 828 million.
To put those numbers in perspective, there were 253 million requests for television programmes on the BBC iPlayer in December alone, and 2.87 billion in 2015.
As ITV points out, traditional linear television viewing remains resilient despite significant changes in the availability and delivery of programming. On average viewers watch 216 minutes of television a day, compared to 222 minutes in 2004. ITV estimates that 81% of television viewing is live.
Broadcaster and other video on demand is growing rapidly, but it is a gradual process and still only accounts for 7% of total viewing.
ITV remains a possible takeover target. At least one analyst has suggested that BT might be interested.
Paolo Pescatore at CCS Insight said: “A potential acquisition will allow BT to differentiate its offering through original programming which is proving to be a key battle ground for all web providers such as Amazon, Netflix and others. It would also give BT a free to air platform to promote its paid for BT TV service.”
Whether BT would be able to run a creative production business effectively is another matter. In our view a more likely suitor might be a company like Comcast, which could more effectively exploit international distribution of programming.