British broadcaster ITV swings into first-half profit

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British commercial broadcaster ITV said on Tuesday that it bounced into profit in the first half of 2010, and launched its first-ever move into pay-television as part of a new five-year plan.

ITV, which airs hit reality show 'X Factor' and popular soap opera 'Coronation Street', said in a results statement that it soared back into black thanks to improving advertising revenues and the World Cup in South Africa.

The group made a net profit of 71 million pounds (86 million euros, 113 million dollars) in the six months to the end of June, which compared with a loss of 70 million in the same part of last year.

Pre-tax profit stood at 97 million pounds, which contrasted with a shortfall of 105 million pounds last time around.

"The good financial performance we have reported today has enabled us to reduce our debt significantly but does not disguise the underlying challenges we face," said chief executive Adam Crozier.

"We are under no illusion that ITV needs to change substantially," he added in the earnings release.

ITV was slammed by Britain's record-length recession, which ended in late 2009 and saw many companies slash their advertising budgets.

At the same time, the group was also hit hard by fierce competition from digital television channels and the Internet.

"For the past decade ITV has not faced up to the challenges presented by the rise of Internet-based platforms, the continuing growth of pay TV and subscription services and the globalisation of content," added Crozier.

"Re-shaping the economics of ITV will require changes not only to the strategy but also to ITV's management, culture and organisation and to deliver this we are today announcing a five-year transformation plan."

Under the new strategy, ITV seek to streamline the group and maximise its audience and revenue share.

The group will also seek new revenue streams from other platforms, including a new pay-television agreement with BSkyB, as it aims to strengthen the business.

© 2010 AFP

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