4 Mar 2009

Broadcaster to cut 600 jobs after downturn 'horror'

10:25 pm on 4 March 2009

ITV, Britain's largest free-to-air commercial broadcaster, suspended its final dividend, cut 600 jobs and announced plans to sell assets as it reported results hammered by the severe downturn in advertising.

The broadcaster, which has seen it shares crash about 80% in the past two years, posted a loss of Stg 2.7 billion due to a writedown.

The home to talent show X-Factor and soap opera Coronation Street also said it was scrapping revenue targets and would slice Stg 65 million off its programming budget after advertising revenues slumped almost 20% in the first quarter.

"Current conditions in the advertising market are the most challenging I have experienced in over 30 years in UK broadcasting," said executive chairman Michael Grade, who described the downturn as a "short term horror".

The group said net advertising revenue for the family of channels was down 4% in 2008. It is expected to be down around 17% in the first quarter of 2009 and the whole advertising market is expected to be down 20% in April.

ITV channels held their viewing share. It said its 2012 revenue targets set in 2007 were no longer appropriate and it would now focus on its core business as a producer and broadcaster, reducing costs and increasing cash generation.

ITV is seeking to dispose of the social network Friends Reunited, will close ITV Local and is considering its options for multiplex business SDN.