ITV furloughs 15% of workforce as advertising revenue slumps 42% in April

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ITV has revealed it has furloughed about 800 of its staff - roughly 15% of its workforce - because of a slump in revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The broadcaster has announced its results for the first quarter of 2020, and although viewing figures were up, the overall picture was bleak. Total revenue fell 7% in the first three months of the year to £694m.

ITV also revealed that in April advertising had crashed 42% as brands pulled their campaigns. Revenue from ITV Studios dropped 11% during the quarter as the company was forced to phase deliveries and social distancing measures caused a shutdown in production.

Total advertising was up 2%, in line with expectations, and online revenue jumped 26%. Total viewing was up 2% and the online audience surged 75%.

ITV has already rolled out a number of cost-cutting measures in a bid to save £60m over the year, including a £100m reduction to its programming budget to around £1bn. The company has furloughed about 800 employees and implemented a 20% pay cut for bosses.

The broadcaster withdrew its full-year dividend earlier this year and will not give guidance for the rest of the year because of continued uncertainty.

“ITV has taken swift and decisive action to manage and mitigate the impact of Covid-19, by focusing on our people and their safety, and by continuing to reduce costs and tightly manage our cashflow and liquidity,” said ITV boss Carolyn McCall.

“We are also ensuring that we continue to inform and entertain our viewers and stay close to our advertisers.”

The broadcaster is planning a phased return to office work in line with government guidelines and is in discussions with ministers about how to resume production. Filming resumed this week on Loose Women, while production has restarted on The Chase and The Voice in Australia.

ITV has also been focusing efforts on its new Britbox streaming service after launching a distribution deal with EE. The company said it had seen “good growth” for free trial starts and subscription for the platform, which now includes content from Channel 4 as well as ITV and the BBC.