When Carolyn McCall left the media world for the airline industry seven years ago, newspaper publishers were under siege from a shift online that sucked away advertising revenue. Now she’s coming back to run ITV, just as the battleground has moved to television.
Advertisers from food to finance to cosmetics, squeezed by Brexit and a slowing UK economy, are busy shifting television spend to Facebook and YouTube as they reassess marketing budgets. Viewers, meanwhile, are tuning into Netflix and Amazon Prime. TV advertising is forecast to drop 2.7% in the UK this year, according to GroupM. The last decline was in 2012.
ITV is counting on Ms McCall, 55, who is leaving her job as the CEO of EasyJet just as Brexit threatens the access of UK airlines to Europe, to come up with the answers and return a struggling business to revenue growth.
Ms McCall said: “I’m really pleased to be joining ITV. It is a fantastic company in a dynamic and stimulating sector.
“I am looking forward to getting to know all of the people at ITV and helping it make the most of the amazing opportunities that it has in the future.”
Ms McCall will receive an annual salary of £900,000 (€1m) and a pension allowance of 15% of salary.
The UK’s largest free-to-air commercial broadcaster passed over a “very impressive field of high-calibre candidates,” to select Ms McCall, according to chairman Peter Bazalgette.
Her experience atop Guardian Media, owner of The Guardian and Observer newspapers, makes her well suited to tackling the challenges, said Alex DeGroote, an analyst at Cenkos Securities.
“She’s got a good grip on the key issues facing traditional media,” he said.
At ITV, Ms McCall will also be running a company that is a perennial subject of takeover speculation. Billionaire John Malone’s Liberty Global owns about 9.9% and has been tipped as one of several potential bidders, speculation that has intensified following Britain’s vote last year to leave the EU. Mr Malone also owns broadcaster TV3 and the Virgin Media cable business, while ITV owns UTV in Belfast.
Arresting a recent decline in ad sales, improving the quality of ITV’s online video offering and warding off the challenge from international streaming services like Netflix will be Ms McCall’s top priorities, and a “monumental” task, said Neil Campling, an analyst at Northern Trust Capital Markets.
Ms McCall, who is one of the few female chiefs in aviation, will become the first woman to lead the broadcaster when she starts in January. She is to join a company that has less revenue than EasyJet, yet is more highly valued in the stock market. ITV had £3bn (€3.4bn) of revenue last year and has a market capitalisation of £7bn, while EasyJet’s sales were £4.7bn and its value is £5.6bn.
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