ITV’s Crozier strikes a cautious note as production-led company rides out first Brexit shock wave

ITV continues to bring in the money – first half revenues up 11 per cent, profits by nine per cent – despite Brexit fears. CEO Adam Crozier (below) says he’s planning to cut costs by £25m to prepare for the worst, which may not happen.

First half revenue hit £1.5bn, driven mainly by a 31 per cent increase at ITV Studios, now a pretty fat collection of producers including recent buys The Voice owner Talpa Media and Poldark producer Mammoth. Ad revenue grew much less strongly and ITV is predicting a one per cent decline over the first nine months of 2016 as advertisers re-assess budgets.

There’s nothing too much in this to frighten the horses and ITV’s shares should continue their recovery after falling over 20 per cent the day after the Brexit vote. Crozier’s planned cuts might be seen as prudent good housekeeping or just another company using the Brexit vote to remind staff and investors that the only way isn’t always up.

As to ITV as a whole it’s now at least as much a producer as an advertising-funded broadcaster. This is all fine and good so long as it keep producing the hits and other broadcasters pay top dollar for premium content. The longer term fear is that other distributors find a way around this model and programme sales go the same way as music in the age of streaming. The growth of mobile might eat into the prospects of conventional long-running dramas.

Could ITV still be a takeover target? John Malone’s Liberty Global, which now owns Virgin Media, has 9.9 per cent but it bought the UK’s biggest independent producer all3media in 2014 with Discovery and may feel it has enough invested in production. Apple, Facebook and Google seem happy enough to distribute other people’s expensively produced content.

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