Report Raises Possibility of Increased STV/ITV Collaboration

The possibility of increased collaboration between STV and ITV has been raised by the chief executive of the former, in the wake of the two companies having resolved financial claims against each other ahead of going to court.

According to Scotland on Sunday, STV chief executive, Rob Woodward, has introduced the prospect of working with ITV in areas beyond its core television interests.

In a report by Kristy Dorsey in the paper’s Business & Money section, in what is claimed to be Woodward’s first interview since the companies' legal dispute was resolved a month ago, Woodward is quoted as saying that the “fundamental modernisation” of STV's working relationship with ITV will eventually stretch beyond the funding of programming – the issue that lay at the heart of what turned out to be a two-year conflict.

As reported by allmediascotland last month, what ended up as a claim and a counter-claim between the parties was technically settled at £18 million, but the Glasgow-based broadcaster will be actually paying a relatively modest £4.8 million once various other factors are taken into account. 

Says Dorsey:”The finer details of the £18 million settlement would continue to be ironed out in the coming months, but Woodward said: ‘It will cover all areas that bind us together, ranging from programming to online and joint promotion.

“’It is multi-faceted, and it will touch on literally every point of contact between us and ITV.'”

Dorsey continues: “The network partners came to loggerheads in 2009 when STV stopped airing a number of high-profile programmes funded through a central pot of cash to which all three Channel 3 broadcasters – including Northern Ireland's UTV – contributed.

“The Scottish commercial broadcaster now operates as an affiliate of the ITV network, purchasing programmes on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis.

“The agreement will substantially reduce STV's working capital requirements and removed the spectre of legal damages that could have amounted to as much as £21 million.

“This is expected to lead to the resumption of dividend payments by the Scottish broadcaster, though Woodward said the company would focus in the short term on further paying down its debts.

Dorsey adds: “Meanwhile, Woodward also left the door open to the possibility of some popular ITV programmes returning to air in Scotland.

“Analysts have said that although it wouldn't make much commercial sense for STV to bring back broadcasts of the English FA Cup, programming could be reshuffled to include the likes of popular period drama Downton Abbey. Even so, the overall level of STV's opt-out from the ITV schedule is expected to remain around its current level of five per cent of peak-time viewing.

“’We keep it under constant review’, Woodward said of the programming mix. ‘It is early days at the moment, and I cannot say anything definite one way or the other, but we will be making decisions in due course.'”