Harry and Meghan boost for under pressure ITV
Meghan talking to Oprah Winfrey (ITV)
ITV’s broadcast of Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry was watched by 11.1m viewers, making it one of the most-viewed shows this year.
The interview, featuring the couple’s claims about their strained relationship with the Royal Family, peaked at 12.4m viewers.
It was ITV’s largest peak audience since the Rugby World Cup final in 2019 and the largest for any show – excluding coronavirus briefings – since the final of Strictly Come Dancing on BBC One in December.
The channel captured a 54% audience share during the show last night, while four out of five viewers aged 16 to 34 tuned in. Of the total viewing figures, 2.2m streamed the programme on ITV Hub.
The programme, made by Winfrey’s Harpo Productions, was watched by 17.1m Americans on CBS on Sunday night.
Other ITV programmes saw a knock-on benefit. Good Morning Britain averaged 1.2m viewers yesterday, its highest since the US election and third biggest overnight volume ever.
Co-presenter Piers Morgan stirred controversy yesterday when he cast doubts over comments Meghan made about feeling suicidal. Today he walked off the set during an exchange with a co-presenter.
ITV boss Carolyn McCall responded by saying she “completely believes” the Duchess of Sussex, and that Mr Morgan had been spoken to about his comments.
The audience figures, together with prime advertising revenues, will be a timely boost for the broadcaster which warned today that the advertising market remained “challenging”.
The programme figures will be seen as a pick-me-up for ITV after the company reported a sharp dip in profits and revenue. In early trade ITV shares were the worst performer in the FTSE 100, though they later recovered to close 4.16% higher at 126.5p.
Despite the poor trading of the last year, Ms McCall said she sees positive trends for revenue and is encouraged by the roadmap out of lockdown.
She said: “Good progress has been made in delivering our strategic priorities with the rollout of our programmatic addressable advertising platform, Planet V, to agencies to a very positive response; the acceleration of the transformation of the ITV Hub.
“BritBox UK is ahead of plan hitting half a million subscriptions in January 2021; and BritBox US increased its subscriptions by 50% over the year – we now have over 2.6m subscriptions globally across all our SVOD services.
“While total revenues and profits were down our financial performance was ahead of expectations driven by a strong end to Q4 and our firm control over costs.
“We are encouraged by the roadmap out of lockdown. We are seeing more positive trends in the advertising market in March and April and the majority of our programmes are now back in production.
“However, there remains uncertainty in all markets around the world with the potential risk of lockdowns, which if they materialise will affect revenues. We are committed to taking further cost out of the business while further investing to accelerate the delivery of our strategy and digital transformation.
“We have restructured the Broadcast business to create the Media and Entertainment Division to better respond to changing viewing habits. ITV Studios is well positioned to take advantage of the continued strong growth in the demand for quality content internationally.”
Total external revenue for 2020 was down 16% at £2.781 billion. ITV Studios total revenues fell 25%, impacted by the disruption to the majority of productions from March.
Total Broadcast revenues were down 8%, with total advertising down 11% despite VOD advertising rising 17%.
Adjusted Group EBITA fell 21% at £573m which is better than external expectations, driven by the strong end to Q4 and tight cost control delivering £116m of overhead savings of which £21m are permanent.