More than four-and-a-half years into a five-year transformation plan, ITV is continuing to deliver strong growth, but is also facing a ratings decline in the UK. The group said this morning that its Q3 2014 revenues were up 8% to £1.8B ($2.84B) over the nine months ended September 30. Total advertising revenues at the home of Downton Abbey were up 6% in the first three quarters, and boss Adam Crozier said the full-year is expected to be up 5% over 2013, marking the group’s best outperformance of the market for five years. However, ITV’s share of viewership has slipped again and “is not as good as we would like,” Crozier said. Flagship show, Downton Abbey, which is not produced by ITV, has sagged in the ratings this year while Simon Cowell’s return to The X Factor is averging lower than last year’s 10th series. Crozier said 2015 will see a focus on improving audience share with new and returning drama including the second season of Broadchurch, as well as the Rugby World Cup. On the results, shares of ITV were down .75% in morning London trading.
As for its in-house production arm, ITV Studios grew revenues by 10% to £609M ($960.6M). Via ITV Studios, ITV has been on an acquisitions spree in the past two years, buying up such companies as Gurney Productions (Duck Dynasty), Leftfield Entertainment (Pawn Stars), Thinkfactory Media (Hatfields & McCoys) and Big Talk (The World’s End). Crozier said full-year revenues are on track to grow by about £100M.
Coming up in 2015, Crozier pointed to ITV’s investment in scripted content which is expected to pay off with such new UK dramas as The Trials of Jimmy Rose starring Ray Winstone, and U.S. dramas including Aquarius with David Duchovny and History’s Texas Rising. Also on deck in 2015 are the revamped Thunderbirds Are Go! and a U.S. version of variety show Saturday Night Takeaway for NBC.
The latter has been problematic for ITV of late. ITV Studios America has been locked in a bitter labor dispute with the WGA East in the past several months over reality shows it produces in the U.S. Earlier this month, the guild cried foul over the new NBC variety show to be hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, threatening to strike unless its producers sign a guild contract. Harris himself stepped in amid the brouhaha, tweeting: “My variety show will absolutely be crafted by union writers. I’ve been assured by ITV that it will be a WGA show. Period.”