ITVX boasts a strong start as the World Cup attracts new viewers in droves

Qatar World Cup boosts ITVX debut as broadcaster reveals 55% rise in streaming and strong digital growth

  •  ITV said it achieved 55% more streaming hours in the first month of the service
  • Not counting the World Cup, ITV said underlying streaming figures grew by 29%
  • The broadcaster plans to spend £160m this year on exclusive content for ITVX 

The launch of ITV’s new streaming service ITVX opened to a surge in viewing figures as Britons tuned in to watch international football and original drama series.

ITV told investors on Friday it had achieved 55 per cent more streaming hours year-on-year in the first month after ITVX went live on 8 December.

Digital users also climbed by around two-thirds, many of whom saw the England football team’s quarter-final defeat to France in the World Cup, as well as Argentina’s nail-biting penalty shootout victory in the final a week later.

Goal: Many Britons tuned in to watch the FIFA World Cup last month on the ITV’s new streaming platform, ITVX, including the England football team’s quarter-final defeat to France

Not counting the boost provided by the tournament, ITV’s chief executive, Dame Carolyn McCall, claimed that underlying streaming figures still grew by 29 per cent.

She noted a strong interest among viewers, particularly those from harder-to-reach demographics, for the platform’s commissioned launch titles.

Among shows released exclusively on ITVX last month was A Spy Among Friends, an espionage series based on the life of Kim Philby, starring Guy Pearce as the Soviet double agent, and Damian Lewis as friend Nicholas Elliott.

Other productions included period drama The Confessions of Frannie Langton; Litvinenko, with David Tennant in the lead role; and four-part psychological thriller Without Sin.

McCall added: ‘With over 15,000 hours of programming and films on ITVX, our new service is a destination for discovery and is engaging users as they discover the quality and depth of our content.

‘ITVX has also landed really well with advertisers who see the increased value of the scale and reach of the audience they can now target in a high quality, brand safe and measurable streaming environment.’

The new video-on-demand platform replaced ITV Hub, which regularly received complaints about buffering and sound quality issues, particularly when broadcasting popular live sports events.

Like its predecessor, Britons can watch programmes on ITVX for free, although if they do not want to see advertisements, they have to pay £5.99 per month.

ITV plans to spend £160million this year on exclusive content for the platform and at least £800mllion over four years, with a goal to increase digital revenue to at least £750million per year.     

It believes the affordability and quality of content on the service will help make it a viable competitor to American streaming giants like Netflix, AppleTV and Disney+.

Yet many analysts believe the creation of a new media platform represents a major gamble for ITV, given the fizzling out of the pandemic-induced streaming boom and the high investment needed to attract enough subscribers to become profitable. 

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said that the firm ‘will need more than one strong month to overcome market scepticism about the ITVX venture and the significant content costs attached to it.

‘ITV had to do something to contend with the shift from an analogue to digital TV world, and it cannot really afford for ITVX not to work.’

ITV shares were 1.4 per cent higher at 78.6p on late Friday afternoon.