Drama deal

STV Studios takes majority holding in Two Cities

Two Cities made the popular drama Blue Lights

STV Studios has increased its 25% equity stake in the high-end drama production company Two Cities Television to a majority holding of 51%.

The Glasgow broadcaster acquired a minority stake in Two Cities in January 2020, with an option to increase its initial stake to a majority position upon Two Cities becoming profitable.

STV said today that the Belfast-based company has made “significant progress”, producing two series of the critically acclaimed police drama Blue Lights for BBC One, with the second series due to air in 2024. This follows previous success with BAFTA award-winning show Patrick Melrose starring Benedict Cumberbatch for Sky and Showtime.

Currently, Two Cities has additional high-end drama series secured which will deliver forecast revenue of £55m over the next three years (2024 to 2026).

STV says the acquisition will support its aim for STV Studios to become a 10% operating margin business.

Founded in 2016, Two Cities is led by Michael Jackson, formerly Controller of BBC One and BBC Two, CEO of Channel 4, president of programming at USA Entertainment and chairman of Universal Television. He is joined by creative director Stephen Wright, formerly Head of Drama for BBC Northern Ireland where he commissioned Line of Duty and The Fall.

STV Studios is responsible for a wide range of scripted and unscripted series such as AppleTV+ drama Criminal Record; prison drama Screw; Bridge of Lies; Celebrity Catchphrase; The Hit List; A&E After Dark; LEGO Masters; Antiques Road Trip; and The Travelling Auctioneers.

Stephen Wright and Michael Jackson of Two Cities Television said: “The STV team have been incredible partners. The company is beginning to find its feet and we are thankful for all the support from STV Studios in getting Two Cities up and running. Their continued investment and partnership will allow us to develop and grow.”

Simon Pitts, chief executive of STV Group, said: “Michael and Stephen have delivered significant creative and commercial success on the back of the standout performance of Blue Lights and there is so much more to come.

Simon Pitts
Simon Pitts: successful strategy

“STV’s consolidation of Two Cities is clear evidence of the ongoing success of our Studios strategy of taking minority stakes in high potential production companies. We’re very proud to be in business with Two Cities and look forward to our continued partnership.”

David Mortimer, MD of STV Studios, added: “Two Cities remains a natural partner for STV Studios, producing high-quality drama across the UK and beyond.

“Their brilliant police series, Blue Lights, truly put them on the map, launching to rave reviews and very strong ratings in 2023.  Two Cities has more work lined up for 2024 and beyond, a strong development pipeline and many exciting projects to come.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with Michael and Stephen over the last four years, they are two of the very best in the business. I’m sure exciting times lie ahead.”

Sky cuts jobs

Pay-TV company Sky is to shed 1,000 jobns, about 4% of workforce, with bulk of departures in its engineering team.

The move comes as the business shifts its focus to digital and streaming. 

Sky’s UK workforce currently stands at about 27,000 and the reduction in the technical team is because of the fall in demand for satellite dishes. The content teams are believed to be largely unaffected by the cutbacks.

A Sky spokesperson said: “The launch of Sky Glass and Sky Stream represents a shift in our business to deliver TV over IP (an internet connection) rather than satellite. Increasingly, customers are choosing Sky Glass and Sky Stream which don’t require specialist installation, and that has led us to change the number of roles we need to deliver our services.” 

Countering the cutbacks, Sky is recruiting for its new film and TV studio Sky Studios Elstree, which is expected to create 2,000 jobs in its first three years. 

Channel 4 this week announced this it would be cutting 240 roles (an 18% fall in headcount), and Paramount Global has indicated it will be reducing its global workforce.

See also: Jobs cut at Scottish national newspaper sports desks

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