STV boss ‘flattered’ by BBC plans for rival channel

STV chief Rob Woodward said the group 'thrives off competition'. Picture: John Devlin

STV chief Rob Woodward said the group 'thrives off competition'. Picture: John Devlin

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The chief executive of STV today said the broadcaster is “flattered” by the BBC’s plans to launch a new Scottish channel as he revealed a dip in profits at the Glasgow-based group.

Rob Woodward told The Scotsman that STV, which also announced a 50 per cent hike in its annual dividend to 15p, “thrives off competition” following last month’s news that BBC Scotland will go live in the autumn of next year and will include an hour-long bulletin featuring a mix of Scottish, UK and international news.

The bottom line is it’s a great outcome for Scottish consumers

Rob Woodward

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He added: “I actually think it’s quite flattering because our plans, which we announced last year, are essentially being replicated by the BBC.

“The bottom line is it’s a great outcome for Scottish consumers because they’re going to end up with two channels dedicated to Scotland.”

The BBC’s move comes as STV prepares to launch its own new channel, STV2, in the spring, having secured licences in Aberdeen, Ayr and Dundee to add to its existing operations covering Edinburgh and Glasgow. STV2 will be available to more than 80 per cent of Scotland’s population on Freeview and will also be offered on Sky, Virgin Media and the online STV Player.

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Woodward said that a launch date has yet to be confirmed, but added: “We’re ready to launch as soon as the transmission infrastructure can support it. One of our key programmes will be STV News Tonight, our 7pm bulletin which will integrate international, UK-wide and Scottish news. We’re very excited about the prospects for that.”

His comments came as STV posted a 3 per cent rise in revenues to £120.4m for 2016, although operating profits dipped 3 per cent to £19.7m amid a decline in national airtime revenues.

The group also said that STV Productions, maker of shows such as Celebrity Antiques Road Trip and Catchphrase, enjoyed a 53 per cent surge in revenues to £12.7 million for the year to the end of December, boosted by a range of new commissions. But margins at the division fell well short of company targets, prompting a £2.8m goodwill writedown.

Woodward said: “Production is a difficult business to forecast – it’s all to do with the mix of commissions, because different types attract different margins. We said that we would grow the business back to 2015 levels in 2016 and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

The STV chief added: “The prospects look good for the future but from an accounting point of view we just decided to take the opportunity of tidying up the balance sheet with our goodwill writedown. There’s nothing to read into it other than we’re taking a prudent approach.

“The future outlook is good and we’ve announced a number of new commissions including Babushka, a new entertainment format to ITV, we’re going to be coming out with news about format sales outside of the UK and we continue to invest heavily in drama. We’re expecting continuation of good things from our productions business.”

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