'Bright year ahead' for ITV

'Bright year ahead' for ITV

Broadcaster ITV is expecting another bumper year after announcing its sixth straight year of double-digit profit growth despite falling audience figures.

Underlying profits before tax rose 18% for the full year to £843m, with total revenues climbing 14% to £3.3bn over the same period.

It also forecast a bright year ahead for the business and announced a special dividend of 10p per share.

Its family share of viewing was down 3%.

Chief executive Adam Crozier said: "As we look to 2016 and beyond, we see further significant opportunities for growth across the company organically and through acquisitions and partnerships."

The broadcaster, which is home to shows including Downton Abbey and The X Factor, said audience figures came under pressure from the launch of new digital channels, a poor performance from some programmes and a strong year for the BBC.

It said it net advertising revenues grew 6% for the year to £1.7bn, up from £1.6bn in 2014.

The company said the announcement of the special dividend of 10p - equivalent to £400m - reflected the board's confidence in the business and its strong cash generation.

ITV said it expects the balance of its net advertising revenue to change this year, with a boost coming in the second quarter from the Euro 2016 football tournament.

However, it expects net advertising revenues to be flat and "marginally behind the market" in the first quarter, compared to 12% growth in the same period last year.

The company said it made a string of acquisitions in 2015, including a deal for Dutch-based Talpa Media, creator of The Voice.

ITV said it paid £389m for Talpa's entire share capital, with further payments depending on its performance.

The broadcaster also bought the remaining 75% of production company Mammoth Screen, which is behind hit dramas including Poldark and Endeavour.

ITV announced in February that it had appointed Sir Peter Bazalgette - the man credited with bringing Big Brother to UK screens - as its next chairman.

Shares in ITV fell 2% as its downbeat outlook for advertising in the first quarter overshadowed rising profits.

Shore Capital analyst Roddy Davidson said ITV's continued momentum showed its "unrivalled ability to deliver a large mass market audience to advertisers".