ITV gets boost from rugby and soap operas

Scotland's Sean Maitland during the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final match against Australia at Twickenham. Picture: Jane Barlow
Scotland's Sean Maitland during the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final match against Australia at Twickenham. Picture: Jane Barlow
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The Rugby World Cup and popular live episodes of Coronation Street and Emmerdale have helped improve under-pressure audience figures at ITV.

The broadcaster, home to shows including Downton Abbey and The X Factor, said it narrowed falls in its share of Britain’s television audience over the past few months.

Despite the rugby boost and surging viewing figures for its soaps, the group’s overall share of the TV audience fell 3 per cent to 21.2 per cent in the ten months to the end of October, although this marked a slight improvement since its half year, when it dropped to its lowest level for at least 15 years, at 21.1 per cent.

Chief executive Adam Crozier said the group was on track for “another year of double-digit profit growth” as revenues continue to rise – up 13 per cent to £2.05 billion in the nine months to 30 September thanks to an ongoing recovery in advertising spend.

ITV said the Rugby World Cup was the second most watched rugby tournament since records began after it averaged 3.3 million viewers, with a 23 per cent audience share.

The England v Wales game on 26 September was watched by 10.4 million viewers, peaking at 11.6 million, making it the most watched sporting event of the year and the most watched rugby match since the 2007 world cup final between England and South Africa.

The live episode of Coronation Street to mark ITV’s 60th birthday in September was another success for the group, watched by 9.4 million viewers – a 37 per cent audience share.

Crozier said “all parts of the business” had performed well over the first nine months of its financial year, adding that the outlook for 2016 was also “encouraging”.

He said: “As we expected, share of viewing has improved in the second half driven by strong performances in daytime, the soaps and the Rugby World Cup, and continuing this trend remains a key focus for the business.”

Broadcast and online revenues rose 7 per cent to £1.53bn, helped by a 6 per cent rise in net advertising revenues for its ITV channels.

ITV Studios revenues lifted 28 per cent, bolstered by a string of acquisitions such as Talpa Media, maker of The Voice.

The group expects advertising revenues to rise by at least 5 per cent over the full-year.

Roddy Davidson, media analyst at Shore Capital, said: “We are pleased with the continuing momentum evident in this morning’s update and are bullish on ITV’s unrivalled ability to deliver a large mass market audience to advertisers.”