Rugby World Cup and Love Island boost ITV's third-quarter fortunes

LONDON (Reuters) - ITV ITV.L said the Rugby World Cup and hit dating show Love Island helped boost viewing figures and advertising revenue in the third quarter as the British broadcaster reaps the benefits of measures to turn its fortunes around.

FILE PHOTO: A company sign is displayed outside an ITV studio in London, Britain July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall

The company’s shares have risen 30% in the last three months as improving advertising trends and demand for new programming, particularly in the United States, helped the home to The X Factor rebound in the second half.

Advertising revenue was up 1% in the third quarter, at the top end of a range of down 1% to up 1%, despite uncertainty over Britain’s departure from the European Union forcing companies to adopt a more cautious approach to spending.

The key measurement is forecast to be either flat or up 1% in the final quarter, having fallen by 5% in the first half of the year.

The ITV Studios business was enjoying a “very strong second half delivery schedule” with ITV America benefiting from the U.S. version of Love Island and other popular programming.

England’s run to the Rugby World Cup final in Japan, where they lost to South Africa, also boosted viewing figures.

“On screen and online viewing performed well with highlights including four of the five highest rating new dramas so far this year and the Rugby World Cup which saw a peak audience of 12.8 million viewers during the final,” Chief Executive Carolyn McCall said.

ITV’s shares rose 3% on Tuesday after the group reiterated the rest of its outlook for cost savings, program production and online growth. Analysts at Citi said they would upgrade their full-year earnings forecasts by 3.3%.

ITV has built up its studios production business in recent years to reduce its reliance on fluctuating advertising trends, while former easyJet boss McCall is also developing digital offerings to help it compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon.

“ITV is swimming against a strong current, but is making some steady progress,” Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor, said.

ITV said it was making good progress with the strategy, despite the uncertain economic environment in Britain where Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called a snap election for Dec. 12 to try to break the Brexit deadlock.

Reporting by Kate Holton, editing by James Davey and Kirsten Donovan