ITV main channel revenues fall 12.5%

Britain's main commercial television company, ITV, said it will match its 2006 spending on programming next year as it attempts to woo viewers, and advertisers, back to its flagship channel, according to an Associated Press report.

The Associated Press report said ITV said revenues from its main terrestrial channel are expected to be down 12.5% over the year but that an increase of 40% in income from its digital channels would keep its earnings in line with expectations.

Last month, the company poached Michael Grade, the chairman of the British Broadcasting Corp., to head its struggle against a drop in audiences and advertising revenues amid growing competition from digital channels and the Internet.

The report said Interim CEO John Cresswell believes that while 'the airtime sales environment remains challenging, our digital channels continue to perform strongly.'

The advertising revenue target of 150 million pounds ($295 million) for the digital channels by 2007 had been exceeded a full year ahead of expectations, the company said. It added that its cost-savings strategy is expected to deliver 40 million pounds ($80 million) in savings by 2008.

Analysts at Numis Securities said the program investment pledge was encouraging as the 2006 budget had included the expensive task of covering the World Cup, the report further said.