STV commits to making further episodes of Taggart

THE long-running Scottish drama series, Taggart, is to continue to be made next year, says its makers – irrespective of whether it will receive an airing on ITV1.

Says STV, in an interim management statement issued this morning, it will make further episodes of the crime drama next year even if ITV1 decline to re-commission it.

The exact number of new episodes has not been decided yet.

Relations between ITV plc – which owns most of the ITV Network – and STV took a recent turn for the worse when the former issued legal proceedings to recover what it believes to be unpaid bills for the making of programmes STV then decided to opt out of screening. Meanwhile, STV is counter-suing for what it claims to be unpaid advertising revenue.

ITV plc is suing STV for a gross £38 million; STV is seeking to recover a gross £35 million.

It is further saying ITV plc is guilty of “abuse of video on demand rights and significant prejudicial behaviour”.

The statement covers the trading period between August 27 and now. As far as advertising revenue is concerned, it is down on expectations, but improving.

Says the statement regarding Taggart: “We remain in discussions with ITV Network on securing a commission or co-commission for Taggart. In the event that ITV do not re-commission Taggart, we can confirm that STV will make Taggart for delivery in 2010. STV recognises the widespread popularity of the programme and the strong ratings and return on investment the series delivers. This will ensure that this popular brand continues.

“As ITV Network has not yet confirmed a re-commission and we will not be delivering further episodes of Taggart in 2009, this will result in a reduction in earnings in 2009 of approximately £2 million. This is considerably lower than previously anticipated due to further mitigating actions and stronger airtime revenues.”

Taggart celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.

STV’s recent increased opting out of network programmes has resulted in more home-produced programming.

Says STV Group chair, Richard Findlay: “STV has weathered the economic downturn well as a consequence of our strong management team and committed and motivated staff. We continue to build our digital and content businesses and we remain broadly on track to deliver our targets. Whilst it is disappointing that ITV plc has forced us into the legal arena in order to defend our legitimate rights and seek recovery of the monies we believe are owed to us, it is essential now that we fully pursue the legal process.”

Adds chief executive, Rob Woodward: “To build shareholder value, it is essential that we protect and secure STV’s rights within the Channel Three Network. We have explored numerous routes to engage with ITV, but we have been left with no choice but to seek protection through the Courts and we are confident that our position will be upheld. Although we continue to operate in a challenging economic climate, we are beginning to see signs of an improvement in the market.”