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STV steps up production ambitions with Primal deal

Kelly Macdonald - The Victim

Kelly McDonald as The Victim: a big hit commissioned by the BBC


STV is aiming to build a world class production business, based in Scotland, after acquiring a majority stake in unscripted producer Primal Media from Lionsgate.

Founded in 2016 by Mat Steiner and Adam Wood, Primal Media has already created a range of successful formats including RTS award-winning Release the Hounds (ITV2); Rose D’Or-winning Bigheads (ITV) and Carnage (Sky One);

The acquisition follows the strategic partnership announced by STV and Primal Media in February and will enable STV to realise full value from Primal’s current and future programming slate. This includes current comedy series Jerk for BBC3 and two new programmes for C4, both currently in production;

There is no upfront payment by STV and the agreement includes the option to acquire the remaining shares in the future. Until then, Lionsgate will retain a minority stake in the business with the founders holding the remaining equity.

STV Productions’ primary objective remains securing returnable and returning series commissions. Today it announces the recommission of six-part series Inside Central Station for BBC Scotland, which will go into production later this year. Further recommissions of Antiques Road Trip (series 19 and 20) and Celebrity Antiques Road Trip (series 9), as well as Celebrity Catchphrase for ITV, are also confirmed, all for 2019 delivery. 

Following the critical and popular success of drama series The Victim for BBC1, STV’s next drama production, Elizabeth is Missing, also for BBC1, begins filming in Scotland next month. Two-time Academy Award winner Glenda Jackson will take the lead role.

Additionally STV Productions will produce new quiz format, The Cash Machine, for STV. The six-part peak time entertainment series, hosted by Lorraine Kelly, is the first example of STV using its broadcast platform to pilot a high potential format, with filming commencing later in the summer.

Craig Hunter, STV’s new creative director for factual, who was behind shows like Blue Planet Live and Inside the Factory while at the BBC, starts in July.

STV Player’s launch on the Sky platform remains on track for Q4 2019, and will enable universal availability of STV Player in Scotland for the first time.

The company is also announcing a partnership with US advanced advertising company Freewheel which will enable STV’s premium digital advertising inventory to be monetised on the Sky platform. STV will sell its own advertising on Sky and the Freewheel partnership has the potential to unlock other advanced advertising solutions. 

New content deals have been agreed with Endemol Shine and distributors TCB Media Rights and TVF bringing 300 hours of additional drama, documentary and factual entertainment programming to the STV Player. This builds on previous deals with Hopster, Flame, Jukin’, Little Dot Studios and Eleven Sports, all designed to increase the appeal of STV Player to the widest possible audience.

STV Player+, STV’s new subscription service, launched to Apple users in February and will be rolled out across all platforms by the year end. 

New features continue to be introduced to the STV Player across mobile, TV and web. These include ‘live restart’ on all live streaming platforms, ‘next episode autoplay’ and ‘end of play recommendations’, all designed to create a seamless and increasingly personalised viewing experience. ‘Picture in Picture’ will be launched across web and mobile shortly, targeting programmes such as the 2019 Rugby World Cup, where STV and STV Player hold exclusive rights to all 48 live matches in Scotland.

Simon Pitts, chief executive, said:  “It’s a little over a year since we set out our new strategy to deliver production and digital growth and re-establish STV as a creative force in Scotland and beyond. With a new team fully in place we are building real momentum and delivering encouraging results.

“Programming successes like recent drama The Victim for BBC1 demonstrate our growing creative strength, and the acquisition of Primal Media – whose founders have an unrivalled track record of devising hit entertainment formats – will further strengthen our creative pipeline as we seek to become one of the UK’s leading producers.

“Our digital vision is for the STV Player to become Scotland’s digital destination. With our Sky launch later this year we will be universally accessible across Scotland for the first time, offering a fantastic range of exclusive, live and on demand content from STV and a range of other broadcasters, on a free or subscription basis. The highlight of the autumn will be exclusive coverage of all 48 matches of the Rugby World Cup, streamed live on STV and the STV Player in full HD.

“We look forward to maintaining this rapid progress, delivering our strategy and generating attractive returns for our shareholders.”

STV will announce its interim results for the six months ended 30 June on 3 September. 

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