Love Island and Rugby World Cup boosts ITV

The Rugby World Cup and dating show Love Island helped bolster viewing figures and advertising revenue at ITV over the past three months.

The chief executive, Carolyn McCall, whose strategy is to build ITV into a digitally led media and entertainment company said on-screen and online viewing had performed well.

Highlights included four of the five highest-rating new dramas this year and the Rugby World Cup, when the audience for the South Africa v England final peaked at 12.8 million.

The broadcaster said it had also reached its target of 30 million registered users of its ITV Hub before its target date.

The company’s shares have risen 30% in the past three months as improving advertising trends and demand for new programming, particularly in the US, have bolstered the business. They closed up 1.7% at 138p on Tuesday, though they are still down on their 155p peak of a year ago and 275p four years ago.

Advertising revenue was up 1% in the third quarter, despite Brexit uncertainty forcing companies to adopt a cautious approach to spending.

The final quarter is expected to be either flat or up 1%, after falling 5% in the first half of the year.

The ITV Studios business, McCall said, was enjoying a “very strong second half delivery schedule” with ITV America benefiting from the US version of Love Island and other popular programming.

ITV has built up its studios production business in recent years to reduce its reliance on fluctuating advertising trends, while McCall, a former chief executive of easyJet and the Guardian Media Group, is also developing digital offerings to help the broadcaster compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon.

She said the recent launch of BritBox, a streaming service that includes content from the ITV and BBC archives, had been successful and a distribution deal with BT and EE had been agreed.

ITV had a strong schedule for the coming months, McCall said, including I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, England qualifiers for the Euro 2020 football championship and the return of Saturday Night Takeaway and Liar.

Richard Hunter, the head of markets at Interactive Investor, said: “ITV is swimming against a strong current but is making some steady progress.”