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STV says half-year profit growth 'supports decision' to restructure news and close STV2

Scottish broadcaster STV has linked “strong” profit growth in the first half of 2019 to cost saving measures that saw a restructure of STV News and the closure of the loss-making STV2 channel last year.

STV’s financial results for the six months to the end of June this year, published today, show an adjusted profit before tax of £10.1m, up 7.4 per cent year-on-year from £9.4m.

Operating profit jumped from £1.4m over the first half of 2018 to £11m, including a growth of 7 per cent in the broadcast division to £9.7m.

The company said cost saving measures had had a “positive impact”.

STV announced in May last year that it planned to cut 34 jobs in its news division and another 25 with the closure of STV2.

STV2, which closed at the end of June 2018, featured news programmes STV News Tonight, STV News at One and Scottish Politics This Week.

National Union of Journalists members voted almost unanimously to strike, but never took industrial action after STV backed down on plans for compulsory redundancies.

By the end of 2018, around 30 staff including journalists, production assistants and camera operators were understood to have taken voluntary redundancy. Some staff were redeployed from STV2 to STV News.

The company today claimed the performance of STV News has “continued to strengthen” following the changes.

The flagship STV News at Six programme now has an average viewing share of 30 per cent (up from 26.4 per cent in 2017), it added.

The company also said STV had received its highest viewing share since 2009 at 18.7 per cent in the first half of this year, despite an “even more competitive market” including the launch of the new BBC Scotland channel.

STV chief executive Simon Pitts (pictured) said: “An operating profit increase of ten per cent when national advertising revenues are down supports the decisions we took to reposition the group for profitable growth, focusing on STV’s regional strengths and the exciting growth potential offered by our digital and production businesses.”

However revenues were down five per cent for the period to £54.9m, of which £45m was from broadcast. Broadcast revenues were down three per cent year-on-year partly as a result of STV2’s closure.

Total advertising revenue was down 0.6 per cent to £48.8m, which STV said showed it was “outperforming the wider TV market”.

It said a fall in national advertising income had been offset by continued growth in digital and regional advertising (both up 19 per cent).

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