Independence for Scotland

By Julian Clover | July 31, 2008 | 16:53 UK

Julian Clover hears how STV is giving Scottish viewers their own identity through a dedicated video portal and a new library channel.
Scottish Television is distinct from the rest of the ITV network, the STV brand is the one that dominates the screen, although viewers will see the entire line-up of flagship shows that are present South of the border. The ITV brand appears lower down the country’s EPGs where ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4 are present.
The natural desire to have the STV brand appear on screen has led to the launch of the company’s own video portal. “Unlike other broadcasters we’re not a technology company, and we have no interest to be one, but we needed a solution where we had access to world class technology and we could incorporate that with us providing the audience and content,” CEO Rob Woodward told the Broadcasting Press Guild this week. STV decided to go the out of the box route and commissioned Brightcove to provide its technology. “It offers pretty much the same functionality as the BBC iPlayer and we’ve done it for a fraction of the money of any other broadcaster.” Woodward admitted that STV has spent just £50,000 on the infrastructure, though there is the ongoing cost of the handful of staff required to run it.
Although live, the player will be officially launched later in the summer. “I can’t see how broadcasters will continue to spend thousands of pounds on the technology when you can go to the States and access world class technology,” said Woodward.
Through its membership of the ITV Network, which includes the other ‘independents’ UTV and Channel as well as the former Carlton-Granada block ITV plc, STV gains access to properties that include Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Tonight. STV’s own programming will be available anywhere in the world while the network content will be geographically restricted.
Woodward also has plans to launch a new Scottish channel, dubbed Scottish Gold, which would draw on the libraries of both STV and the BBC. New commissions might also be made from Scottish-based independent producers, STV is seeking funding from the newly established Scottish Broadcasting Commission, Woodward says that an amount similar to the £15 million heading the way of the new Gallic language channel would be a start, although once on-air the channel would run on as near a commercial footing as possible.
Sky Scottish ran briefly on the Sky platform from 1996, the objective was to reach those viewers in England and Wales with shows of a Scottish flavour, but it emerged that many more viewers in Scotland were tuning into programmes such as the timeshifted version of the evening news magazine Scotland Today. Woodward says the idea of incorporating content from both the BBC and STV makes the new channel a more distinctive proposition.