Regular readers of the blog will have been following the ongoing saga of ITV over the last few months or so. It's been pretty obvious that the business has had major problems for a while and we've been flagging them up here on the blog with increasing frequency.
Words like "stricken", "failing" and "struggling" have accompanied the release of their 2008 results this morning. The headline loss of £2.7bn is driven mainly by goodwill write-offs, but within this profits have dropped 41% to £167m in 2008. While 600 job cuts, £65m off the programming budget and firesales of Friends Reunited (remember them?) and Freeview business SDN, may go some way to placate shareholders deprived of a dividend, it smacks of too little too late.
Revenues are down 17-20% in Q1 this year, which means ITV aren't suffering as much as Trinity Mirror (-30%), but media companies with print at their heart already have an inbuilt advantage in that their customers are in a habit of paying for the product, and this gives them a relationship and a revenue stream that can be developed - print businesses have options to lock customers in. ITV have an amorphous mass of anonymous eyeballs.
Their strategy around this problem of not knowing their customer was to develop the digital offer and "leverage the ITV brand". Today they announce that the target of deriving £150m in digital revenues by 2012 has been scrapped, due to market conditions, though this is not helped by the fact that their online revenues in 2008 limped in at £36m, miles away from where they needed to be. Sponsorship revenues came in way higher than online, at £58million, just to put some context around this. The online team lost £20m overall, which is a startling "return" on investment in an arena which is meant to be their shining hope for the future.
So, traditional revenues are falling faster than Hull City in the Premier League, while online revenues are a drop in the ocean compared to the gaping hole they are meant to be filling.
I know there are a few good people at ITV and I hope they manage their escape before the iceberg is sighted. It's out there, it's getting colder and closer, but it's most definitely on a collision course.