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ITV’s Carolyn McCall blames ‘stagnant’ UK economy for advertising downturn

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ITV boss Dame Carolyn McCall has warned that the second half of the year would be “hard” for the broadcaster, blaming an advertising downturn in a “stagnant” economy and politicians who are now waiting for the election rather than making policies to help.

McCall told a conference hosted by the Royal Television Society in Cambridge on Thursday that ITV would be “dragged down” by depressed advertising revenues during the rest of the year. 

The London-listed broadcaster warned over the worst advertising conditions in more than a decade in its last set of results, but McCall said that predictions of a recovery in the second half of the year from economists had not materialised. 

“Its proving to be quite a hard second half . . . Advertising revenue will be a drag for us so all our results will be dragged down,” she said. “The UK economy is not doing very well.”

She spoke the same day that the Bank of England held interest rates at 5.25 per cent following better than expected inflation data in August.

McCall also criticised the government for a lack of policies to help grow the economy.

“The thing that the government can do for the creative economy is to start growing the economy. They talk about growth all the time but . . . where are the initiatives to properly grow the economy?” 

She added that it was “frustrating” given it now “feels like it’s a waiting game — everyone knows there will be an election”. 

Earlier this year, ITV pulled out of talks to buy All3Media, the TV and film production business behind Gogglebox and Call the Midwife and which is owned by Warner Bros Discovery and Liberty Global. 

Also talking at Cambridge, Liberty boss Mike Fries said that an auction of All3Media had now begun, and said that ITV was still interested after adding that “pretty much everybody you can think of” was interested in acquiring the group. John Malone’s Liberty also owns about a tenth of ITV.

Companies such as Banijay and Sony Pictures have also been linked with a bid.

McCall said on Thursday that the company was “monitoring” — but not actively engaged in — bidding for the group. 

Those close to the talks between ITV and All3Media owners said that the two sides had not been able to agree on price, which meant that ITV could still be seen as a viable buyer depending on what prices were offered in the auction. 

ITV is seen by analysts as a natural buyer of All3Media, given its strategy to grow its studios business to offset the slowdown in its legacy linear TV operations, as well as to better ascribe a value to the different parts of its operations.

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