STV topples BBC to become Scotland's most watched primetime channel as profits hit ten-year high

STV has unveiled its highest earnings for more than a decade on the back of increasing revenues from digital and regional advertising.

Kelly Macdonald starred in critically acclaimed STV production The Victim. Picture: Contributed
Kelly Macdonald starred in critically acclaimed STV production The Victim. Picture: Contributed

The Glasgow-based broadcaster posted a 13 per cent rise in adjusted operating profits to £22.6 million for 2019 as it claimed the title of “best watched peaktime channel in Scotland”, beating BBC One for the first time since 2013.

STV recorded a 2 per cent increase in total advertising revenues to £101.6m as turnover from digital channels grew by 37 per cent and regional takings increased by 11 per cent. This offset a decline at the national level.

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Chief executive Simon Pitts said: “An operating profit increase of 13 per cent when national advertising revenues are down illustrates our growing resilience and the exciting growth potential of our regional, digital and production businesses.

“In 2019 STV was the most popular peaktime channel in Scotland, ahead of BBC One for the first time in six years.”

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He attributed a strong viewing performance to entertainment hits such as I’m a Celebrity and The Chase, as well as new dramas including Manhunt, The Bay, Cheat and Deep Water, which broke STV streaming records.

The Rugby World Cup also helped to boost audience figures, while the STV News at Six became the most watched news programme in Scotland.

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The broadcaster enjoyed a 23 per cent uplift in online viewing, driving a 44 per cent increase in advert impressions. Around 80 per cent of Scottish adults are now registered for its on-demand STV Player service.

Its production arm enjoyed critical acclaim for a duo of drama productions aired on BBC One – The Victim and Elizabeth is Missing – as STV said the division was poised to move into profitability in the coming year.

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The division narrowed its losses to £100,000, improving from £600,000 in 2018. It last year acquired unscripted content specialist Primal Media and invested in drama producer Two Cities Television to drive growth and enhance its creative capabilities.

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Pitts added: “STV Productions saw a return to high-end drama for the first time in a decade with the critically acclaimed The Victim and Elizabeth is Missing for BBC One.

“2020 has started with a range of new commissions and recommissions, including the biggest ever order for Antiques Road Trip and a new ten-part series for Discovery.

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“Despite uncertainty following the UK’s exit from the EU and the coronavirus, we are positive about the outlook for 2020.”

Analysts at Shore Capital praised a “strong” performance as STV capitalised on “a very strong demand backdrop and strengthened its dominant on-screen performance”.