UPDATE 1-ITV to pay special dividend after earnings rise

Wed Feb 26, 2014 3:05am EST

LONDON Feb 26 (Reuters) - ITV, Britain's largest free-to-air broadcaster, said it would pay a special dividend of 161 million pounds ($268 million) after posting a 9 percent rise in 2013 external revenues, driven by strong growth in non-advertising revenues.

The broadcaster, home of period drama "Downton Abbey" and talent show "The X-factor", on Wednesday reported external revenues of 2.39 billion pounds in the year to Dec. 31, in line with market expectations.

The company said earnings before exceptional items rose 21 percent to 620 million pounds.

Total non-advertising revenue (NAR), a key industry indicator, grew by 175 million pounds to 1.21 billion pounds.

ITV said the board proposed to give a full year dividend of 3.5 pence a share, up 35 percent, and a special dividend of 4.0 pence in line with last year.

The firm said it expected to see good growth at ITV Studios, Britain's largest production and distribution company which sells content around the world, and would continue to look at potential acquisitions.

In January, ITV said it was launching its first pay-TV channel, dedicated to British drama, on Sky's satelite and online platforms.

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