ratings winner: ITV impresses with earnings despite struggling advert market

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IT’S hard to imagine the Right Honourable Robert Crawley, the star of ITV’s period drama Downton Abbey, having much in common with the budding pop stars from the X Factor.

Yesterday, ITV impressed investors by delivering a better-than-expected 13 per cent rise in full-year earnings against a flat backdrop for advertising sales.

ITV, which is also home to soap opera Emmerdale and ice-skating show Dancing on Ice, reported adjusted earnings of £462m, on external revenue up four per cent to £2.14bn.

Chief Executive Adam Crozier is reducing ITV’s dependence on revenue from the struggling advertising market.

“The increase in non-advertising revenues of £93m, driven by our studios and online businesses, is clear evidence of progress in rebalancing the company and our ability to grow new revenue streams,” he said.

Analysts from Numis said the “very strong” results were well ahead of consensus expectations. Mr Crozier said 2012 advertising sales had started better than expected, with the first-quarter down two per cent against analyst forecasts of a fall of between nine and 10 per cent, he said. April would be broadly flat. Mr Crozier did not predict any upturn in the market, but said ITV would outperform.

He added: “We remain cautious, it’s been relatively flat, but we’ve got Euro 2012 coming up.”