STV fails to capitalise despite audience boom

Advertisers dropped away even as STV said its audience had grown at record speed, as people stuck at home turned to their TVs and laptops for company in the first six months of the year.

The Scottish broadcaster saw its TV audience figures soar 12%, and growth continued even as lockdown slowly lifted.

Chief executive Simon Pitts said: “Our record audience growth in the first half – up 12% on TV and 86% online – illustrates the enduring power and relevance of public service broadcasting, particularly STV’s local news, which has been a vital lifeline for millions of Scots during this crisis.”

Lockdown viewing increased 24%, and daytime TV watching was up 48%, while 40% more TVs were switched to the news.

But, like many other media companies, a bigger audience has not translated into more money, as advertisers have pulled their commercials from screens and newspapers.

STV said advertising revenue had dropped by 20%, with its regional sales – down 18% – faring better than its national ad revenue, which was down 23%.

Online revenue was 5% higher than the same period last year.

The company also normally makes a lot of money through its studios, but, as filming paused in the second quarter of the year, this fell by 17%.

Overall revenue dropped 19% to £44.7 million, STV said, with a £9.1 million profit last year turning into a £4.9 million loss before tax so far this year.

Mr Pitts added: “While our advertising and production revenues have been significantly impacted by Covid-19, we have been able to mitigate nearly half of the impact thanks to the proactive steps we have taken and our variable cost model.

“The outlook is much more positive in the second half, with advertising trends improving materially in July and August, and a strong schedule to look forward to on TV and online, including the return of a full complement of weekly soap episodes from later this month, new drama like Des starring David Tennant, and entertainment juggernauts like the rescheduled BGT live finals and I’m A Celebrity.”