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Grade Calls for New Programming as ITV Profit Down

ITV's new Executive Chairman Michael Grade said the broadcaster must focus on improving its programming as it posted a 19% fall in underlying pretax profits due to a poor advertising market.

Grade, who was appointed to ITV in November, said the company needed to raise its creative ambition, be more innovative and take more risks after it struggled last year, losing viewers, advertisers and its chief executive.

On Wednesday, ITV, the home to "Coronation Street" and "The X Factor", posted a better-than-expected total revenue of 2.18 billion pounds ($4.20 billion).

Underlying earnings before interest, tax and amortisation (EBITA) at 375 million pound were also slightly ahead of analyst forecasts of 371 million pounds.

Underlying pretax profits were down 19% from last year at 364 million pounds, but also slightly ahead of the 349 million pounds that had been expected by a Reuters poll of 11 analysts.

"Our overall strategy is right, but we need to improve our allocation of resources in order to accelerate the rate of improvement across all our businesses," Grade said.

ITV was also at the centre of a storm last year when rival BSkyB bought a 17.9% stake in the broadcaster, widely seen as a blocking move to prevent another rival, NTL (now Virgin Media) from buying the whole company.

Regulators are currently examining the move and ITV said it had responded to the authorities, noting the concern that "BSkyB (as a competitor) may be able ... to block a shareholder resolution requiring a 75% majority and that this may not be in the interest of ITV's shareholders as a whole."