Jeremy Clarkson has not been cancelled as the host of quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall has confirmed.
McCall said that although the former Top Gear presenter’s comments about Meghan Markle were ‘awful’, he had not been sacked from the forthcoming season, which is in production.
Her remarks come amid widespread speculation that Clarkson had been axed as the presenter.
In the hot seat: ITV boss Carolyn McCall said that although former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson’s comments about Meghan Markle were ‘awful’, he had not been sacked
Announcing ITV’s full-year results, she said: ‘Neither Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? or Jeremy Clarkson have been cancelled by ITV.
‘We’ve handled it well and been very clear. We have said his comments were awful and I don’t think there has been any washover on to our brand.’
Clarkson is contractually committed to one further series of ITV format Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, a show he has been hosting for the past five years, and the company is very likely to drop him after filming has ended.
He has come under fire for his newspaper article about the Duchess of Sussex in December.
In a column for The Sun newspaper, he wrote that he ‘hated’ Markle and dreamed of her being forced to ‘parade naked’ through British towns, prompting a record-breaking 25,100 complaints to the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
The TV star, 62, later apologised, admitting he had ‘put my foot in it’ and accepted his language was ‘disgraceful’, and that he was ‘profoundly sorry’. The Sun also apologised.
Meanwhile, the Duke of Sussex branded the column about his wife ‘horrific, hurtful and cruel’ and questions were raised about whether Clarkson would keep his lucrative deal with ITV.
An ITV spokesman further clarified: ‘There are no further commissioning commitments beyond that currently, as is typical with such shows where we make commissioning decisions on a series-by-series basis.’
Clarkson took over from Chris Tarrant as the presenter of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? in 2018.
It is understood that Amazon Prime Video is also considering cutting ties with Clarkson and will not work with him beyond already-commissioned seasons of The Grand Tour and Clarkson’s Farm, according to reports.
McCall’s comments come as ITV posted lower annual profits following advertising challenges and hefty investment throughout 2022.
Final answers? Clarkson is contractually committed to one further series of ITV format Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, a show he has been hosting for the past five years
Profits fell 12 per cent to £717million, from £813million the year before. The broadcaster invested £20million in content for its new streaming service, ITVX, which launched in December.
The maker of Love Island and I’m A Celebrity said it plans to invest a further £160million in the streaming platform this coming year for new content. This excludes costs on technology and marketing.
Total advertising revenues fell 1 per cent to £1.9billion in 2022 as the market remained flat and brands continued to pull back spending on ads.
The broadcaster said: ‘While in the short term the advertising outlook is challenging, we expect linear advertising revenues to remain resilient and continue to be highly cash generative.
‘This underpins our continued growth investment in ITVX and Studios, which power ITV.’
Matt Britzman, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said that hefty investment in ITVX was ‘a necessary evil to compete against the behemoths of the streaming industry.’
The London-listed broadcaster has been at odds with the US streamers in recent years, struggling to keep up with their tech offering and battle for young people’s attention.
But Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, warned that although ITV needs content to attract sufficient viewers, ‘it cannot afford to spend the kind of sums Netflix, Amazon and Apple do on programming’.
‘Perhaps with judicious use of its back catalogue and smart acquisitions the company can establish itself as a real presence in the streaming market,’ he said.
Total group revenue for ITV grew by 7 per cent to £4.3billion for the year, with ITV Studios continuing to be a shining light for the company.
ITV expects Studios to grow by at least 5 per cent each year to 2026, but cautioned that TV production inflation would limit its margin to the lower end of its 13 to 15 per cent guidance.
McCall said it anticipates another buoyant year thanks to its exclusive coverage of the Rugby World Cup in the autumn and the broadcaster’s hit shows like Big Brother.
Although shares dropped 3.4 per cent, or 3.04p, to 85.44p yesterday, they have started 2023 strongly, rallying more than 13 per cent, helping to reverse some of last year’s slide.