LONDON May 15 (Reuters) - ITV, Britain's biggest commercial free-to-air broadcaster, warned its net advertising revenue would fall sharply in the second quarter due to a tough comparative with last year when it showed matches from Euro 2012.
The home of soap opera "Coronation Street" and period drama "Downton Abbey" said on Wednesday its net advertising revenue was up 6 percent in the first quarter, ahead of forecasts of 5 percent, but it is expected to fall after that.
Ad revenues are seen down 12 percent in April, down 7 percent in May and down between 12 and 15 percent in June. They are expected to be positive in July.
Overall, ITV said it expected its net advertising revenue to be down around 3 percent in the first half.
"As we anticipated, the quarterly pattern of demand from advertisers in 2013 is very different to 2012 although we expect it to even out over the course of the year," Chief Executive Adam Crozier said. "While we are cautious about the outlook for TV advertising for 2013, our objective remains to outperform the market over the full year."
Liberum analyst Ian Whittaker said he expected the shares to fall on the statement as the predicted drop in the second quarter was worse than expected, however he suggested investors should buy on a weak price as the comparatives in the second half of the year become much easier.
Crozier, CEO since 2010, has been steadily weaning ITV off its dependence on volatile advertising markets, seeking instead greater revenue streams from television production, online, pay and interactive businesses.
The strategy has served the group well, with the shareprice up over 95 since he took over in April 2010, steadying the group and enabling it to pay a 156 million pound ($238 million)special dividend after strong full-year earnings in February.