STV buys stake in studio and returns to profit
Simon Pitts: the strategy is delivering
STV has added an eighth label to its studios business with the acquisition of a 25% stake in unscripted production company, Hello Mary.
Brighton-based Hello Mary was founded by Steve Regan in 2019 and has won and delivered a range of titles for a variety of broadcasters across entertainment, documentary and popular factual.
Glasgow-based STV said the addition of Hello Mary further strengthens its creative pipeline in the unscripted genre, which has a strong track record of success through STV Studios Entertainment, headed up by Gary Chippington, with Catchphrase and new commission, The Bridge of Lies; and Primal Media, who’s ambitious new show, Landmark, aired on Sky Arts this week.
The deal was announced with half-year figures to the end of June showing STV swung back into the black, posting a pre-tax profit of £8.5m against a £4.9m loss last time.
Operating profits surge 118% to £11.4m (2020: £5.2m) as the advertising recovery continues. Total advertising revenue was 32% higher and is expected to be up by between 25% and 30% for the 9 months to end of September.
The company said it was maintaining record audience growth on both STV (+5%) and STV Player (+66%).
The board proposes an interim dividend of 3.7p, which is 23% up on 2020.
Simon Pitts, chief executive, said: “Ahead of expectations, STV has returned to pre-pandemic levels of growth and profitability, thanks to the strength of our programming, the success of our diversification strategy, and the commitment and creativity of our people.
“Our record viewing performance has continued into 2021, with TV audiences up 5% even on last year’s lockdown levels, and online viewing via STV Player up a further 66%.”
Player-exclusive boxsets now constitute over 40% of the company’s on-demand viewing. This has driven a 32% advertising bounce back in the first half which is continuing into the autumn.
Mr Pitts continued: “Our strategy of creating a more diversified business through a relentless focus on digital and production growth is delivering.
“STV Studios is going from strength to strength, winning 15 programme commissions so far this year, and we’re delighted to be filming new, large scale returnable formats in Scotland like drama series Screw (C4), quiz show The Bridge of Lies (BBC1) and the genre-bending Murder Island (C4), as we aim to become the UK’s leading nations and regions producer.”