STV boss 'focused' on staying independent

Simon Pitts Image copyright ITV
Image caption Simon Pitts spent 17 years at ITV before taking over at STV

The boss of STV has declined to rule out a sale of the commercial broadcaster, amid continued speculation it might become part of ITV.

Simon Pitts said "you can never rule in or rule out anything" but insisted he was focused on growing as an independent channel.

It came as STV revealed an 86% drop in bottom line pre-tax profits for 2018 compared to the previous year.

The broadcaster said much of that was down to one-off restructuring costs.

STV is the only channel three business not owned by ITV.

Its biggest shareholder is the Guernsey-based investment fund Crystal Amber, which had also invested in Northern Irish broadcaster UTV before its sale to ITV.

Mr Pitts, a former ITV executive, told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "We've set out a clear and ambitious growth plan which shows we can be a successful - and yes independent - business.

"It involves investing in programming, investing in digital and investing in our people to build an exciting future in STV - and that is my sole focus."

'Ambitious growth plan'

Asked if he would rule out the sale of STV, Mr Pitts added: "You can never rule in or rule anything out, but we've set an ambitious growth plan in train.

"We're starting to really deliver on it and it involves investing right across the board for in independent future for STV."

STV's statutory pre-tax profit for 2018 was £1.9m compared to £13.9m the previous year, although the figure would have been £19m after stripping out one-off costs.

Last year STV closed its loss-making digital channel STV2.

Elsewhere, STV said revenue increased by 8% to £125.9m in 2018.

Mr Pitts added that STV-made drama The Victim, starring Kelly Macdonald, was about to start on BBC One.

In the week that BBC Scotland's new digital channel went on air, he added: "Anything that leads to more TV series being made in Scotland is a good thing, and we're actually already working together on shows that STV is making for the new channel.

"These days there's a lot more that unites old rivals like STV and the BBC than divides us.

"In terms of the ratings and the impact on STV, we're really not worried."

For the latest business news as it happens, follow BBC presenter Andrew Black's updates each weekday morning on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme between 0600 and 0900.

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