ITV external revenue was up 2% in the first quarter of 2021 — landing at £709 million (US$986,095) — despite a 6% dip in advertising revenue as the British mediaco is on track to deliver £30 million in cost-savings this year.
The company’s production and distribution arm, ITV Studios, posted a 9% increase in revenue to £372 million.
Productions are largely continuing in spite of varying global lockdown restrictions, particularly across Europe, ITV stated in its fiscal update today (May 5).
The studio has delivered a range of programs and formats in the UK and internationally, including unscripted formats The Cabins in the UK and The Chase in the U.S.
Returning titles include Saturday Night Takeaway in the UK, Forged in Fire in the U.S., The Voice in France, Australia and Germany, and I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! in Germany and Australia.
The studio is building its pipeline of scripted and unscripted shows and its relationships with OTTs, with recent commissions including Netflix titles Queer Eye (pictured), entering its sixth season, and The Wedding Coach; Love Island season two for Videoland in the Netherlands; and TheVoice Rap for Exxen in Turkey.
Despite the dip in overall ad revenue, ITV stated trends have been positive since March, with April up 68%. The company forecasts May to be up around 85% and June up between 85% and 90% compared to the same period in 2020, benefiting from the Euros and Love Island.
Revenue for the company’s restructured Media and Entertainment division declined 3% to £484 million, which ITV attributed to lockdowns imposed by the UK government to curb COVID-19 cases.
The division is looking to improve ITV Hub’s output with more series drops and original content as part of the restructuring.
ITV recently announced a new “on-demand first” commissioning strategy for the ITV2, ITVBe and CITV brands, aiming to appeal to younger audiences with more scripted and factual content, with “increasing viewing” on ITV Hub driving decision making.
The company is also growing BritBox UK’s content slate, with the streamer’s first original factual commission, Secrets of the Krays, launching in May.
While there is uncertainty, the macro environment continues to improve and we are encouraged by the outlook for total advertising in the first half, which we forecast will be up around 26%, compared to the same period in 2020.
ITV total viewing increased a marginal 1%, while online viewing fell 11%, impacted by the absence of winter Love Island in January and February. Despite that, online revenue increased 14%.
Carolyn McCall, ITV chief executive, said in a statement: “We have made a good start to 2021 with total revenue and total viewing both up, despite the continuing impact of the pandemic. We finished the quarter strongly with the substantial majority of our shows back in production and a recovery in the advertising market.
“We are encouraged by the UK roadmap out of lockdown and remain cautiously optimistic about the year ahead. Our advertising revenues are rebounding from last year with April up 68% and we expect May to be up around 85% and June up between 85% and 90%, compared to the same period in 2020. This is driven by UK COVID-19 restrictions being reduced and a strong schedule featuring Love Island and the Euros.
“However, the advertising market and worldwide productions remain exposed to the risks associated with the pandemic. Accordingly, we continue to closely monitor the situation in all the countries in which we operate.
“We remain committed to investing in the acceleration of our strategy to digitally transform ITV which will, in part, be funded by the delivery of our cost saving targets.”