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ITV falls out with Friends Reunited

By Stuart Turton

Posted on 4 Mar 2009 at 11:59

ITV has confirmed that it will sell social network Friends Reunited as it moves to cut costs.

The sale of the pioneering social network comes amidst a raft of changes that will see the company cull 600 jobs, slice £65 million from its programme budget and rid itself of Freeview business SDN, and online business directory Scoot.

The changes are intended to shave £155 million off the operating budget this year, rising to £175 million next year and £245 million in 2011.

The move is spurred by last year's 41% drop in profits to £167 million, leading ITV's chief executive Michael Grade to proclaim this "the most challenging [advertising] period I have experienced in over 30 years in UK broadcasting."

The broadcaster bought Friends Reunited in 2005 for £120 million, but the site's thunder was stolen by the emergence of MySpace and Facebook. The social network recorded an 18% fall in revenue to £18 million last year, which the company claimed was due to a shift away from a subscription-based service.

Inevitably, however, ITV was keen to dismiss any notion that Friends Reunited was a failing business.

"Friends Reunited remains a highly profitable and successful online business, but our new strategic focus on streamed video does not play to its strengths and we will look to dispose of the business when the time and the price are right," ITV says in a statement.

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