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STV boss looks ahead to start of city service

The chief executive of STV hopes its soon to launch city television service can break even in its first year of trading.

LAUNCHING SOON: Rob Woodward said new roles were being created for the stations. Picture: James Galloway
LAUNCHING SOON: Rob Woodward said new roles were being created for the stations. Picture: James Galloway

Rob Woodward told the ­company's annual general meeting running costs of £1.5 million had been allocated to the stations for Glasgow, which starts in June, and Edinburgh, which will begin broadcasting in December.

There have already been 26 people hired in Glasgow for the venture while students from the city's Caledonian University will also be involved.

Mr Woodward indicated a similar number of people will work on the station in the Scottish capital along with scholars from Napier University. The new stations are predicted to reach around two million people across the central belt of the country.

Mr Woodward said: "We are creating new jobs and new roles. We think there is a strong demand for a channel which is owned by the city and reflects the city."

As well as that STV has invested millions of pounds in new broadcasting equipment across its operations including in cameras, editing suites and studio facilities following the formal renewal of its Channel 3 licence until 2024.

Mr Woodward said: "We have been holding off upgrading some of our broadcast equipment [as we were] waiting until the government confirmed our licence had been renewed. Off the back of that we have made a significant multi-million pounds investment in broadcasting technology, cameras and some new look sets in all our main locations.

"We need to set a high standard in everything we do and this investment demonstrates that commitment."

In a trading update issued to the stock market STV said total airtime revenue to the end of May is likely to be up around 7% year-on-year. Mr Woodward said: "It is reflecting what is happening in the economy in Scotland and across the whole of the UK. We are continuing to see a positive backdrop with advertisers increasing their spend."

National airtime revenues came in slightly ahead of expectations in the first quarter and were showing 5% growth. The Scottish market was said to be continuing to strengthen with airtime revenue 7% ahead in the first three months of 2014. Digital revenues were up 15% in the quarter and are predicted to grow by between 15% and 20% across the full year.

Mr Woodward told shareholders at the AGM the STV Productions arm is helping to support the creative industries in Scotland and employed upwards of 600 freelancers last year. The production arm has a core staff of around 25 and Mr Woodward said the focus was on the "returnability" of the series it makes. Current commissions include Antiques Road Trip, Celebrity Antiques Road Trip, Catchphrase, The Link and Let Me Entertain You. Mr Woodward said STV is on course to deliver at least one third of its earnings from non-broadcast services by the end of next year. He said: "We genuinely see a number of exciting growth opportunities particularly in our non-broadcast areas.

The majority of resolutions at the AGM were passed with more than 90% support. The re-appointment of PwC as auditors appeared to be the most contentious item with 11.5% of shareholders voting against. Finance director George Watt told the AGM a tender had been done during the year and the accountancy firm provided good value for its audit and tax services. Analysts from Edison Investment Research said: "2014 is a big year for Scotland and STV's strong brand is enabling it to capitalise on a favourable advertising backdrop."

STV shares closed up 10p, or 3%, at 370p.

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