The London Studios (also known as The South Bank Studios, The London Television Centre, ITV Tower, Kent House and LWT Tower) in Waterloo, Central London was a television studio complex owned by ITV plc and originally built for London Weekend Television. The studios were located in Central London, on the South Bank next to the IBM Building and the Royal National Theatre. The building was set on 2.5 acres of land and was 24 floors high. The London Studios closed on 30 April 2018. Many ITV programmes now come from BBC Studioworks' facility at the former BBC Television Centre, White City, London.
|The London Studios|
|Former names||The South Bank Television Centre|
|Alternative names||The ITV Studios|
London Television Centre
|Elevation||85 m (279 ft)|
|Closed||Studios closed 30 April 2018|
|Owner||ITV plc (2013–2019)|
Mitsubishi Estate London (2019–)
|Floor area||2.5 acres|
|Design and construction|
|Structural engineer||Clarke Nicholls and Marcel, Civil and Structural Engineers|
|Main contractor||Higgs and Hill|
The facilities were the main studios for ITV, along with a number of production companies including ITV Studios and Shiver based in Kent House tower, while the studios were home to many entertainment, game and daytime shows. These included Good Morning Britain, The Graham Norton Show, Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway and The Jonathan Ross Show. The studios were also used for other programmes from various other channels including BBC Television and Channel 4. ITV Creative, which promotes programmes on the ITV network, was also based at the London Studios.
When LWT succeeded ATV as the London weekend ITV franchisee in 1968, it rented Associated-Rediffusion's old studios at Wembley (later known as The Fountain Studios) while plans for a new studio complex in central London were drawn up.
The chosen site stood beside the then new Royal National Theatre on the South Bank of the River Thames. It was bought in 1969, and construction work, awarded to Higgs and Hill, began in 1970. The centre opened for transmission in 1972, though it was not fully operational until 1974. The complex was owned by the pension fund of the National Coal Board and leased by the station. It was originally called The South Bank Television Centre (a name that lasted until the early 1990s) and at the time was the most advanced television centre in Europe.
On social media, the building is named 'ITV Towers' since the purchase in January 2013. The official name of the building is The London Television Centre (with the studio business branded as 'The London Studios'), that being the logo in reception and around the building.
The site closed in April 2018 for demolition. Initially, ITV intended to redevelop the site with three smaller studios, but in October 2018 it announced it would not be returning to the South Bank, and the whole site would be redeveloped into premium housing.
In November 2019, it was announced that ITV had reached an agreement to sell The London Studios for £145.6 million to Mitsubishi Estate London. New plans for the redevelopment of the site into a commercial development were revealed in February 2021.
Kent House is a 24-storey tower block, and was home to ITV plc and many production offices including ITV Studios and Shiver Productions. During the 1990s the block was also home to Carlton Television and GMTV. It was seen in the titles of Good Morning Britain and Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway. The tower housed programme production offices, edit suites, dubbing suites, VTR studio booths and graphic booths.
Sandwiched between Kent House Tower and the River Thames is the main studio block, housing studios 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7, the restaurant, the takeaway bar (prior studio cafe), management offices, edit facilities, make-up and wardrobe. It was designed by London-based architecture practice Elsom Pack & Roberts.
On the east side of the site, there is a neighbouring building called Gabriel's Wharf. Previously belonging to Younger's Brewery, this three-storey building was added later to the site as a scenery store. When This Morning moved from Liverpool, the 3,000 square feet (280 m2) studio 8 was converted from the riverside end of the first storey. This area was on lease from Coin Street Community Builders to ITV until 2018, when they left the premises.
Audiences were used in many productions at The London Studios. The audience were instructed to queue to the left-hand side of the studios near to the reception entrance, and under a cover where they were escorted into one of the studios once security checked. There were two waterproof TV screens with live ITV programmes shown on them. There were several hand-prints displayed in the audience waiting area with hand-prints of presenters including Vernon Kay, Al Murray, Melvyn Bragg, Lorraine Kelly, Paul O'Grady, Graham Norton, Stephen Fry, Fern Britton, Phillip Schofield, Davina McCall, Des Lynam, Fiona Phillips, Eamonn Holmes, Gabby Logan, Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, Ben Elton and Ian McKellen.
There were a total of nine different studios during the complex's lifespan. By the time of closure there were six. There were weather studios producing the ITV national, and some of the network's regional forecasts at ITN's headquarters in Gray's Inn Road.
The studios were originally built by the London weekend ITV franchise holder, London Weekend Television (LWT). In 1991, Carlton Television won the London weekday franchise from Thames Television, but unlike Thames, Carlton had no studios of its own. Carlton rented space from The London Studios from 1993 for its own post-production and continuity facilities. This arrangement continued until 2002, when an agreement was reached for Carlton to be permanently based within space used by LWT; in the intervening years LWT had been taken over by Granada plc, and a close relationship had developed between Granada and Carlton. This led to consolidation within the ITV network and an agreement for the two to work together as ITV London.
Since 2002, all the ITV plc-owned regions' continuity before national programmes has been presented from the London Studios, as well as continuity before regional programmes in the following regions: Meridian, Westcountry, HTV West, Anglia, the non-franchise ITV Thames Valley region and since 2006 HTV Wales, although between 2002 and 2006 the Welsh station's continuity was recorded and sent electronically to London. The complex also housed the continuity of ITV plc's digital channels ITV2, ITV3, ITV4 and CITV. The site also handled the playout of all the above until 2007, when the service was outsourced to Technicolor Network Services (TNS) (now part of Ericsson). The play-out is now run from Ericsson's broadcast centre in Chiswick.
Ericsson now provides network feeds to transmission centres in Leeds (home of the Northern Transmission Centre, which was also originally taken over by TNS as part of the outsourcing deal) and Glasgow (STV).
In 1994, Granada Group took over LWT and acquired the building. When ITV franchises were permitted to take one another over in the 1990s (which had previously been restricted), Carlton and Granada, between the two companies, eventually owned all the franchises in England and Wales. By the time the two companies merged in 2004, all of Carlton's studios had either been sold, or were surplus to requirements, so were sold soon after. Although the parent companies merged, and are now one (called ITV plc), Granada Television Ltd still exists as a subsidiary of ITV plc, and owns all ITV plc's studios (wholly in Leeds and London, and formerly as a joint venture with BBC Studios & Post Production in Manchester).
The studios produced the bulk of original ITV Studios' programmes, but anyone could hire the studios, so the studios were often seen on other channels' programmes.