STV buys into Two Cities Television as BBC bows out

Benedict Cumberbatch starred in the Patrick Melrose series, which was partly shot in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin
Benedict Cumberbatch starred in the Patrick Melrose series, which was partly shot in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin
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STV’s production arm has snapped up a stake in drama producer Two Cities Television, the company behind critically acclaimed Patrick Melrose, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

Founded in 2016, Two Cities is led by Michael Jackson – the former controller of BBC One and BBC Two and former chief executive of Channel 4 – and creative director Stephen Wright, formerly head of drama for BBC Northern Ireland where he was executive producer of Line of Duty and The Fall and commissioned Bodyguard.

STV Productions has initially acquired a minority equity stake in Two Cities. The Glasgow-headquartered broadcasting group said the tie-up would “further enhance STV’s reputation as a leading producer of drama whilst providing Two Cities with creative and financial support as the business grows in scale in the UK and internationally”.

It noted that both companies were “strongly positioned to address the growing market for drama production from the nations and regions”, with STV Productions based in Scotland and London, and Two Cities based in Northern Ireland and London.

Under the terms of the deal, STV will have the opportunity to increase its initial 25 per cent stake to a majority interest over the next three years.

Said to have a “strong development slate”, Two Cities is currently developing a series based on Michael Wolff’s Donald Trump epic Fire and Fury in partnership with Topic Studios and a drama for the BBC based on David Burke’s book, The Spy Who Came In From The Co-op: Melita Norwood and the Ending of Cold War Espionage, alongside a range of other series and “high profile international events”.

BBC Studios, an original investor in Two Cities Television, is exiting as part of the transaction.

Exciting

Simon Pitts, chief executive of STV Group, said: “This exciting new partnership builds on STV’s growing reputation in high-end drama following recent successes, The Victim and Elizabeth is Missing. Our Two Cities investment will accelerate our growth plan to create a world class, nations-based production business.”

David Mortimer, managing director, STV Productions, said: “We’re thrilled to start the new year in partnership with Two Cities and excited to be working with two of the best-known executives in television in Michael and Stephen.

“Between them they have produced and commissioned some of the most successful serial dramas of recent years.”

In a joint statement, Jackson and Wright added: “We are delighted to be joining forces with Simon Pitts, David Mortimer and his team at STV Productions, a business that feels totally in tune with our own, and one that can very much help accelerate our growth strategy, focusing on nations drama production.”

Shore Capital analyst Roddy Davidson noted: “We regard this as a positive development which will complement STV’s already well-resourced and successful in-house production team with more first-rate creative talent and should further accelerate its growth plans within the content space.

“More broadly, we have been encouraged by STV’s trading performance against a challenging economic and political backdrop.”

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