Virus dents ITV as it grapples with new streaming era

British terrestrial broadcaster ITV is one of the first media companies to quantify the effect of the Coronavirus and it’s bad news: ITV anticipates ad revenue will drop by ten per cent in April as travel and holiday companies (it’s their peak booking season) run for cover.

The effect of the virus is hardly likely to be confined to just March and April and an added fear for ITV, and others, must be the possibility of big sporting events being cancelled too.

Aside from this grim tiding, ITV has reported reasonable 2019 numbers against expectations, with total revenue rising three per cent to £3.3bn although ad revenue was down 1.5 per cent, better than the company forecast. Online revenue grew 20 per cent. Profit before tax fell seven per cent to £530m.

ITV CEO Carolyn McCall has been busily trying to diversify ITV’s portfolio and its new streaming service Britbox (with ten per cent shareholder the BBC) is reportedly struggling to make the headway desired against ferocious competition from existing players Netflix and Amazon Prime and formidable newbies on the UK block, Apple and Disney+. Disney+ is priced at £5.99 per month in the UK, the same as Britbox, which makes a back catalogue of old TV shows look somewhat toppy.

Luke Bozeat, COO at media agency MediaCom says: “The end of 2019 marked three months since Britbox – ITV and BBC’s response to streaming giants such as Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime and Sky’s Now TV – launched. However, while the broadcaster aimed to retain loyal viewers and appeal to newer generations by combining exclusive and classic shows, research has indicated that uptake of Britbox has been slow.

“Britbox has also struggled to reach younger audiences that consume content on phones, laptops and tablets; Ofcom recently stated that children aged 12-15 resonate with Netflix and YouTube more than traditional broadcasters. ITV, BBC and Channel4 are now consequently playing catch-up.”

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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