ITV boss Michael Grade is to extend his stay at the head of the broadcaster for a further year, the company said today.
Mr Grade, who joined ITV from the BBC at the start of last year, will now remain in his role as executive chairman until the end of 2010 – a year longer than planned.
ITV said the decision will provide continuity and allow the management team further time to turn around the performance of the company.
The commercial broadcaster has seen its shares come under significant pressure over the past year, hitting all-time record lows in January as a difficult advertising market took its toll.
Mr Grade succeeded chairman Sir Peter Burt in early 2007, when it was thought he would remain in the role for up to three years.
ITV said at the time that it intended to appoint a new chief executive, with Mr Grade stepping back from day-to-day management to become non-executive chairman.
Sir James Crosby, ITV’s senior independent director, said today it would be “in the best interests of the company and its shareholders” to ask Mr Grade to extend his time as executive chairman.
He added: “This will deliver continuity and give the new executive team the opportunity to execute ITV’s turnaround plan, restoring the company to growth and leading up to the chief executive officer succession process.”
Mr Grade’s contractual terms, which are subject to one year’s notice, remain unchanged.
ITV also said managing directors Dawn Airey and Rupert Howell have joined chief operating officer John Cresswell as directors on the main ITV board.
Recent press reports have been critical of new ITV1 shows, suggesting they have so far received a cool reception among viewers. This places the spotlight on Mr Grade’s recently announced “content-led” overhaul.
But City analysts are not over-concerned, with Citigroup pointing out that shows need time to establish themselves.
The group is also potentially in line to benefit from a review of the broadcaster’s onerous advertising regime, which has until now hindered its recovery.
The Contract Right Renewal scheme allows advertisers to cut spending on ITV1 if ratings decline and was originally put in place to protect advertisers from the company’s potential dominance following the 2003 merger of Carlton and Granada.
If overturned by Ofcom and the Office for Fair Trading, it could help provide a much-needed boost for advertising revenues.
ITV is due to report annual results next week.
Mr Grade recently reported encouraging signs for ad revenues, up 2% for ITV1 during November, with an upturn in its audience share also indicating it may not be all gloom for the group.
Analysts at Citigroup are expecting revenues of £2.09bn (€2.74bn) in 2007 against £2.17bn (€2.85bn) in 2006, with pre-tax profits pencilled in to have dropped by a quarter to £270.7m (€355m). But more key to markets will be the current outlook for ratings and revenues.