Meridian TV Studios was part of The Television Centre in Southampton, England, originally owned by Southern and later by TVS. It was located close to the centre of Southampton on the banks of the River Itchen.
The site was first developed by Southern television, which at that time held the ITV contract for the South of England. The Plaza cinema had originally stood on the site and had been converted into studios. With the advent of colour television, Southern reclaimed land from the River Itchen next to the existing site to build new facilities with state of the art equipment. It opened in 1969.
The site housed two large production studios and a base for Southern’s news operations. It featured a berth for the studio’s motor boat Southerner and the news team often took to the water on it.
In 1981, TVS took over from Southern and built a number of extensions including a new car park, scenery blocks, production offices and an office block connected to the studios by an elevated walkway. Delays with building the new offices lead to TVS launching from Portakabins in the car park, leading the outgoing Southern to label them Portakabin TV in its final programming.
TVS continued to operate from the studios in Southampton until 1991 when a new franchise round occurred. With financial issues arising from the takeover of MTM Enterprises, TVS lost the franchise and it was awarded to Meridian Broadcasting instead. They had no intention to make their own programming beyond local news and therefore it was thought the studios would remain with TVS but following negotiations, Meridian agreed to buy Television Centre, Southampton. There was, however, a significant loss of jobs from the complex.
Meridian began broadcasting in January 1993. They were able to put the studios to use by renting them to independent television and cinema production companies, as well as commissioning programmes directly. Following a merger with Anglia and HTV to form United News & Media, the studios were put to use making programming for the larger company. Production further increased in 1997 with the launch of Channel 5.
By 2000, UNM’s television assets were sold to Granada plc and in 2004, they merged with Carlton Communications to form ITV plc which was to control all of the independent franchises in mainland Britain. The new company was left with thirteen studio complexes and it was decided to reduce this number down to three. The London Studios, The Leeds Studios and The Manchester Studios were the three that remained. ITV has since moved their Manchester studio to MediaCityUK in Salford.
The last programme to be broadcast from Television Centre, Southampton was Meridian Tonight on 17 December 2004. The studio was closed and a number of items were auctioned off including the TVS portakabins and props from popular TV productions. The complex was left abandoned with demolition beginning in 2008. The original studio built by Southern was demolished in 2009. Plans exist to build 350 flats on the abandoned site.
Some notable programmes made in Television Centre, Southampton were Fraggle Rock, Art Attack and Worzel Gummidge.
Location: Southampton, England