ITV makes progress but challenges still there, analysts say

While the production arm ITV Studios has reported growth, the competition remains fierce and consumer spending may worsen


Coronavirus disruption is yet another headache for ITV PLC (LON:ITV), which is facing substantial structural challenges despite showing progress, according to the City.

The TV network has announced advertising revenues will drop 10% in April as travel companies have been deferring their contracts.

READ: ITV slips over coronavirus as travel companies defer advertising contracts

Analysts said it may only be the beginning in the UK, where consumer spending could plummet if people are forced to stay home - albeit they will watch more telly.

The outbreak is posing risks to sporting events, a big chunk of revenues for the FTSE 100 company: the final of the Rugby World Cup was the most-watched UK sporting programme in 2019.

On this year’s programme there is the European Football Championships in a few months’ time and the ongoing Rugby Six Nations, where a match in Rome has already been postponed to prevent the virus from spreading.

“Of course, the situation may turn out to be far less severe, yet for now markets remain very nervous and investors are thinking about worst-case scenarios,” analysts at AJ Bell said.

Virus troubles are only the latest challenge for ITV, which has been dealing with changes in consumer habits amid sustained political uncertainty in the UK.

As a response, the firm has been investing in its studios arm, which grew revenue 12% thanks to successful programmes such as The Voice, Hell's Kitchen and Come Dine With Me. 

It also embarked in a joint venture with BBC called Britbox, a digital service streaming British classics.

The service is available in the US, Canada and the UK, and will be launched in Australia this year.

READ: ITV has strong titles on offer, but can it survive the giant streaming competitors?

While the US platform counts 1mln subscribers, the UK is only at the beginning having launched in November.

Richard Hunter at interactive investor said: “It is far from being imminently profitable”, though last year’s £21mln loss was lower than the expected £25mln.

The problem for Britbox is the competition such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney.

There is less available advertising time, says Hunter, while its peers have “some very deep pockets to achieve their goals”.

According to the analyst, ITV’s reliance on advertising revenue is the “principal difficulty”, as it is half of the total sales.

Shares, which dropped 15% over the last year against a 5% decline for the wider FTSE 100, were trading 10% lower on Thursday at 105.05p.

Quick facts: ITV PLC

Price: 95.36 GBX

Market: LSE
Market Cap: £3.84 billion

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