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Big switch off for entertainment giants? || 7-5-2020

Broadcasting giant ITV saw its share price fall almost two per cent as it reported a seven per cent drop in external first quarter revenues.

The broadcaster recorded a two per cent rise in advertising revenues in the first quarter but has disclosed a fall of 42 per cent in April, since the global pandemic took hold.

So, is the outlook bleak for ITV or could advertisers be switching back on soon?

Advertising was not the only area showing a deficit for the broadcaster – Studios revenue was down ten per cent in the first quarter, to £346m, and now that production is grinding to a halt this department, which makes up almost a third of the business, will be even more pinched.

ITV has invested heavily in its streaming services, including ITV Hub and Britbox, its collaboration with BBC. While early signs on Britbox take-up are promising, some are questioning its viability against larger competitors such as Netflix and Amazon.

The broadcaster has withdrawn its final dividend for 2019 to preserve cash, and it stated it would not be providing guidance for Q2 or the full year in view of the pandemic.

Many analysts are cautious about the outlook for the broadcaster, suggesting that much hinges on how long the current situation drags on. Hargreaves Lansdowne said: “Until lockdown ends and its true cost to businesses becomes clearer, the outlook for the group and the all-important ad revenues remains hard to predict. There’s a lot riding on the current disruption ending sooner rather than later.”

Others, however, think the broadcaster could be a bargain at its current price, pointing out that on current projections ITV is trading on a little less than seven times earnings, below its five-year average of 13 times.

Across the Atlantic, media giant Disney reported a 91 per cent collapse in net income from continuing operations, sending its share price down more than two per cent.

The entertainment stalwart actually reported a 21 per cent revenue rise for the period to the end of March to $18,009 million but net income was down to $475 million, free cash flow fell 30 per cent and earnings per share were just 26 per cent compared to $3.53 for the same period last year.

Obviously the closure of the media giant’s theme parks, studio tours and cruises during the pandemic means it has taken a big hit, and it did have some good news in that its Media Networks revenues and income were up 28 per cent in the first quarter.

Analysts felt the earnings update left many unanswered questions though, especially with regards to the entertainment stalwarts post-pandemic outlook. Bernstein’s Todd Jeunger said: “We had hoped for better clarity on Parks burn rate when closed, margin profile when opened at reduced capacity, operating rules/implications/parameters for operating in a pre-vaccine world.”

It looks like Disney is another company that is currently at the mercy of coronavirus recovery, though the almost-century old conglomerate does have a long history of bounce-backs in its favour.

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