STV swings to profit, hails record viewing figures and snaps up stake in production firm

Scottish broadcasting group STV has swung to a first-half profit, hailed continued record viewing figures and snapped up a stake in a Brighton-based production company.

Releasing results for the six months to the end of June, chief executive Simon Pitts said the group’s financial performance was running ahead of pre-Covid levels, with a strong advertising bounceback continuing into the early autumn.

On key financial measures, Glasgow-headquartered STV posted a 35 per cent year-on-year hike in revenues to £60.3 million, generating a profit before tax of £8.5m, compared with losses of £4.9m a year earlier. An interim dividend of 3.7p per share was declared, up from 3p at the same stage last year.

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Pitts said the firm was emerging from the depths of the pandemic “stronger than ever”, with a cautious but generally upbeat outlook for the remainder of the year.

Catchphrase, the ever-popular quiz show which STV Studios is back in production for currently.

He 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 per cent even on last year’s lockdown levels, and online viewing via STV Player up a further 66 per cent thanks to huge audiences for Euro 2020, dramas like The Pembrokeshire Murders, and our increasingly popular Player-exclusive boxsets.

“Our strategy of creating a more diversified business through a relentless focus on digital and production growth is delivering,” he added.

The group pointed to a strong second-half programme schedule on TV and online, including some 50 hours of new network drama and in excess of 30 new boxsets on the STV Player on-demand streaming service, which now has four million registered users, up 11 per cent.

STV has also bolstered its expanding studios division, acquiring an initial 25 per cent stake in Brighton’s Hello Mary.

The unscripted production company was founded in 2019 and has delivered a range of titles for a variety of broadcasters across entertainment, documentary and popular factual areas.

Hello Mary's new dating pilot, One Night Stand?, launched last week on E4 and the business recently scored a new eight-part paranormal series commission for Discovery. Other productions include How Animals Talk To Each Other (Sky) and Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer Take Over (TCM).

Hello Mary was founded by Steve Regan who has previously commissioned many seasons of Big Brother and Celebrity Big Brother, and has worked as a commissioning editor at Channel 4, Sky One and Living.

In 2020, STV Studios acquired entertainment outfit Barefaced TV and took a minority stake in drama company Two Cities.

Roddy Davidson, media analyst at Shore Capital, which is joint broker to STV Group, noted: “We are very pleased to note the impressive financial performance, operational momentum and outlook assessment comments - all of which add to our conviction that STV is a very well-managed, entrepreneurial business with clear potential to both build on its dominant position in commercial TV broadcasting in Scotland as advertising spend recovers, and to deliver transformational growth across its digital and production operations.”

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