Updated: ITV confirm U-turn on south bank site.

The London Studios, on the south bank of the Thames. Built in the 1970s by LWT.

The FT report that ‘ITV has scrapped plans to return to its headquarters on London’s south bank after a planned five year redevelopment, instead deciding to sell the site’. The broadcaster this afternoon confirmed the report is true.

““Since the original decision to redevelop the South Bank site ITV has launched its new strategy and has successfully moved to new office space in Holborn and studios in W12. These provide excellent modern, functional and flexible working environments. TV needs to ensure that its property portfolio in London supports the new strategy by giving flexibility to continue to grow, while supporting our ambition to be an agile and increasingly digital organisation. By remaining in our current London office and studio spaces we can focus more time and resource on the areas of the business which will deliver greatest value.” – ITV Statement

The newspaper note that insiders at the redevelopment project have revealed ITV’s Chief Executive Carolyn McCall has opted for a more lucrative option to sell-off the south bank studio site rather than return once the area is rebuilt.

Upstairs Downstairs was one of the biggest shows to come out of south bank LWT in the 1970s.

Bruce Forsyth hosted a number of shows for LWT, including Play Your Cards Right.

Plans for the 2.5 acre land had originally seen the demolition of the 24-story Kent House tower, which ITV used as its HQ, and adjoining London Studios to be replaced with a mix-use site which included flats, commercial units and a smaller base, including studios for ITV Daytime, for the broadcaster. The revised development is likely to ditch the studio space.

Kent House was built in the days of regional ITV when each major part of the UK had its own service. London was served by two contractors: Thames Television for weekdays, and LWT for weekends. Both creating their own studio spaces in the capital when they were awarded their licences in 1968. London Weekend Television built the London Studios on the south bank, with the complex opening in 1972. ITV vacated the site in summer 2017. Over its 45 years in operation the studios were home to some of ITV’s best known shows and performers including series such as Upstairs Downstairs, On The Buses, Aspel and Co, Blind Date, Saturday Night Takeaway and Game for a Laugh to name only a few.

Cilla Black became an LWT personality hosting several series, but most famously Blind Date and Surprise, Surprise.

A more recent success for ITV from the studios was Saturday Night Takeaway

The studios, since the 2000s, had also become home to most of the ITV Daytime output with Good Morning Britain, Loose Women, Lorraine and This Morning all produced at the complex. All four shows moved over to Television Centre, operated by BBC Studioworks, initially for a five year stop-gap until the London Studios reopened. It is likely, the FT report, that ITV Daytime will now remain at TVC. Since the demise of the former LWT building ITV has made more use of their ITN office space and facilities on Grays Inn Road, while additional office space has been obtained at Chancery Lane.

It is unclear at the moment how much the site will generate for the company. ITV purchased the London Studios site in 2013 for £56 million. LWT and ITVplc had previously leased the land.

Since 1993 ITV’s breakfast programming was based at the south bank studios, including GMTV, Daybreak and Good Morning Britain.

In 1978 Melvyn Bragg launched The South Bank Show, the arts series taking its name from its studio base.
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