STV advertising revenue drops 20% despite audience growth | Manufacturing sector activity in August | Green jobs plan

Advertisers dropped away even as STV said its audience had grown at record speed, as people stuck at home turned to their TVs and laptops for company in the first six months of the year.

The Scottish broadcaster saw its TV audience figures soar 12%, and growth continued even as lockdown slowly lifted.

Chief executive Simon Pitts said: “Our record audience growth in the first half – up 12% on TV and 86% online – illustrates the enduring power and relevance of public service broadcasting, particularly STV’s local news, which has been a vital lifeline for millions of Scots during this crisis.”

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Lockdown viewing increased 24%, and daytime TV watching was up 48%, while 40% more TVs were switched to the news.

But, like many other media companies, a bigger audience has not translated into more money, as advertisers have pulled their commercials from screens and newspapers.

STV said advertising revenue had dropped by 20%, with its regional sales – down 18% – faring better than its national ad revenue, which was down 23%.

Online revenue was 5% higher than the same period last year.

The company also normally makes a lot of money through its studios, but, as filming paused in the second quarter of the year, this fell by 17%.

Overall revenue dropped 19% to £44.7 million, STV said, with a £9.1 million profit last year turning into a £4.9 million loss before tax so far this year.

Mr Pitts added: “While our advertising and production revenues have been significantly impacted by Covid-19, we have been able to mitigate nearly half of the impact thanks to the proactive steps we have taken and our variable cost model.

“The outlook is much more positive in the second half, with advertising trends improving materially in July and August, and a strong schedule to look forward to on TV and online, including the return of a full complement of weekly soap episodes from later this month, new drama like Des starring David Tennant, and entertainment juggernauts like the rescheduled BGT live finals and I’m A Celebrity.”

The UK manufacturing sector expanded at the fastest rate for over six years in August, as companies restarted operations following the pandemic.

The closely-followed IHS Markit/CIPS manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) recorded a score of 55.2 in August, from 53.3 in July.

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Anything above 50 is considered an expansion in the sector.

Rob Dobson, director at IHS Markit, said: “The recovery of the UK manufacturing sector gathered pace in August.

“Output expanded at the fastest rate in over six years as new work intakes rose to the greatest extent since November 2017, led by an upturn in domestic demand and signs of recovering exports.

“Business optimism also remained encouragingly robust and close to July’s recent peak.”

Duncan Brock, group director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, said: “With supply-side capacity constraints still in evidence and shortages of raw materials sneaking in, it remains to be seen if demand holds strong.

“Manufacturers raised their prices in response to the sharpest increase in cost inflation for almost two years as fuel and transportation became more expensive.”

The Scottish Government is on a “national mission” to create new fairer, green jobs as part of the country’s recovery from coronavirus, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister will use Today’s programme for government to set out what she sees as the “necessary steps to rebuild an economy that is stronger, fairer and more sustainable”.

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Her key statement to MSPs will set out what Bills the Scottish Government will bring forward before next May’s Holyrood elections.

The legislative programme will be dominated by coronavirus and the response to it, with Ms Sturgeon insisting that suppressing the virus is “the single most important thing that we, as a nation, can do”.

The programme for government, which will be unveiled to MSPs this afternoon, will include investment in plans for a youth guarantee for unemployed young people, as well as a programme to help people retrain for new areas for the economy, such as low carbon industries. There will also be specific investment announced in green jobs and skills.

Speaking ahead of the statement, Ms Sturgeon said that when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the Scottish Government had “acted decisively to save lives, protect people’s jobs and insulate our communities from the worst ravages of this illness”.

The First Minister added: “Suppressing the virus is the single most important thing that we, as a nation, can do to allow our economy to continue to open up safely and that has to be our immediate priority.

“Looking ahead, I am determined that we take the necessary steps to rebuild an economy that is stronger, fairer and more sustainable.
“That is why we are making it our national mission to create new, green jobs across Scotland with fair pay and good conditions.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Scottish Labour has been warning for months that we need a quality jobs guarantee scheme in place before the furlough scheme ends – or we risk unemployment on a scale not seen since the 1980s.

“We welcome and support the creation of new jobs in green industries – but workers don’t need promises of ‘jam tomorrow’, they need an assurance they will not be thrown on the dole queues next month.

“Workers and families across Scotland fear for their futures.

“The First Minister now has the opportunity to relieve those fears by guaranteeing not just jobs but quality jobs to all workers who will be adversely affected by this crisis.”

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