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Independence debate has given Scottish media a 'renewed sense of purpose', says STV chief Rob Woodward after figures boost

A refocus on Scottish identity amid the independence referendum campaign coverage has helped boost STV and given it and its competitors a “renewed sense of purpose”, according to STV chief executive Rob Woodward.

Speaking to The Drum following the release of STV’s half year figures – which showed a 35 per cent increase in pre-tax profits to £8.4m and a seven per cent year-on-year revenue growth to £54.7m – Woodward said the broadcaster was in a “strong position” and attributed some of the success to the wider effect of the independence referendum campaign.

“I think the real boost really comes from a refocus on Scottish identity, so I slightly discount the short-term events [such as the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games] and look more long-term at what’s going to happen post-referendum.

“I think irrespective of the outcome, the case for being able to reflect a strong Scottish identity by a company that is solely focused on Scotland the delivery of high quality media to Scotland has never been so high.

“It gives STV and our competitors a renewed sense of purpose about the importance of being able to reflect Scotland to our consumers.”

STV reported its operating profits were up by a fifth in the first half of 2014 to £9.8m, while digital revenue increased by 16 per cent.

The launch of local TV channel STV Glasgow in June, countered the struggle of similar ventures such as London Live and reported nearly 650,000 viewers on average during the first two months. BARB figures suggest London Live has a reach of around 961,000 per week, although London Live chief Tim Kirkman has claimed that the BARB measurement system is under representing local TV audience figures.

Its local TV service is on schedule to roll out to Edinburgh in January.

According to Woodward, STV has used its core channel and network to promote its local TV service and it has resulted in a dramatic uptake of associated digital services.

“The key difference is that we have a fundamentally different model to any of the other local television franchises,” he said.

“Our key advantage is that we start off with having STV as a core channel, and we’re able to promote and send messages to our consumers about the existence of STV Glasgow in the programming, and the audience has really responded.

“Our latest poll showed 93 per cent people were aware of its existence, and of those who watched it in the first two months, 80 per cent said they would become repeat viewers.

“What we’ve also seen is that off the back of the launch of STV Glasgow there’s been a marked uptake in both the app download and usage. People are using the Glasgow City app as an accompaniment to the Glasgow channel, so that is working well. There has been a 60 per cent increase in the number of people downloading the app since the launch of STV Glasgow.

Woodward added that a knock-down price for ad production for local Glasgow businesses had also boosted the channel.

“We’ve been able to launch new advertising services,” he said. “We’ve dramatically reduced the price point of the production of an advert; if you’re a local business and you have £2,000 to invest on a campaign, we’ll put £1,500 of that on screen and £500 into the production of the advert, so that revolutionises the position and accessibility of television as a medium to local business.

“Since launching, we’ve had over 50 local business across Glasgow come onto the channel who have never advertised on television before.”

STV now has 100,000 users of its four city apps which cover Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee and its STV Player app has been downloaded by more than one million people.

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