The Maidstone Studios
The Maidstone Studios, formerly called TVS Television Centre, is a television studio complex with radio studio facilities based at Vinters Park in Maidstone, Kent UK. It has been home to a varied selection of independent British television programming including quiz shows, such as the original run of Catchphrase and popular children's shows such as CITV's Art Attack. Since 2011, the Maidstone Studios has been the home of popular ITV dating show Take Me Out.
The site was first chosen by the then incumbent South of England ITV company Southern Television in 1979, and purchased the following year, for a proposed new studio facility should they win the Independent Broadcasting Authority contract for the new dual South and South-east of England region in 1981. However, following the loss of their franchise, they sold the site to the successful applicant Television South (TVS) at a premium. In fact it was part of the agreement between TVS and the IBA that TVS must provide a studio facility for the new South East region if TVS were to win the contract (although Maidstone was not specified by the IBA). The complex first opened in late 1982 and provided significant output for the company alongside long-standing facilities in Southampton (which they also purchased from Southern).
The site was used frequently for production, as a regional office and as a newsgathering hub, with the South East daily edition of Coast to Coast being based here from the completion of the studio complex. A small studio located in Dover had been used on Friday evenings only to provide an opt-out News Service for Kent and East Sussex until Southern ceased broadcasting at the end of 1981.
When TVS lost its ITV franchise to present licensee Meridian, the Southampton studios were sold to the new company but the Maidstone facility was retained, with a view to TVS becoming an independent production company. Meridian initially continued to rent space in the building as a production centre for the south east edition of Meridian Tonight, before moving to its own centre at nearby New Hythe between 1994 and 2004. The newsgathering operation returned to Maidstone Studios in 2004, though the studio for the programme moved to Meridian's new base at Whiteley in Hampshire.
TVS, including the Maidstone Studios, was quickly bought by International Family Entertainment Inc. and the studios were used as an independent production facility. IFE subsequently launched a UK version of The Family Channel based in The Maidstone Studios, using some elements of the TVS programme archive. Flextech was a partner in the venture, taking a 39% stake in the business. In 1996, the studio complex was sold by International Family Entertainment Inc. to Flextech when it acquired the remaining 61% of the UK Family Channel business.
During 2002 the new owner of Flextech, Telewest Communications plc, overhauled the structure of the operations which resulted in the disposal of the studios.
The studios were bought in 2002 by a local consortium of businessmen under the name "Dovedale Associates" for £4.25m, headed by ex-BBC producer Geoff Miles. In 2005 a £2 million refurbishment programme took place, as part of "Dovedale Associates" business plans for the complex. A new Studio 5 was opened, which covers 12,000 square feet (1,100 m2) able to accommodate a 1,000-strong audience; it is now their flagship HD-ready studio, and since April 2013 has been the home of BBC2's Later... with Jools Holland.
From 2006 to 2012 a company called "TVS Television Productions Ltd" was based in offices at The Maidstone Studios. The name "Television South Ltd", "TVS" and the colour logo device had been re-registered to lighting cameraman Keith Jacobsen, who traded as an independent production company with no links to the original. The 'new' TVS ceased trading on 9 March 2012.
- Studio 1 – 2,000 square feet – small/medium size sets
- Studio 2 – 6,000 square feet – medium/large size sets
- Studio 3 – 500 square feet – small sets/presenting
- Studio 4 – 250 square feet – interviewing/blue screen/continuity
- Studio 5 – 12,000 square feet – large/huge sets
Studios 2 and 5 have room for seating, 200 and 2,400 respectively as well as room for sets. Studios 2 and 3 have large production galleries. Studios 1 and 2 can switch output from 16:9 to 4:3.
Studio 5 is a fully HD, with laser smoothed studio floor, large HD production gallery and equipment. Studio 5 also includes large scene dock doors to allow easy access for people, scenery and vehicles. It is the third largest television studio in the UK, only The Fountain Studios' Studio A&B and MediaCityUK's Studio 1 having a larger area.
Maidstone also had 10 edit suites, 4 dubbing suites, dressing and green rooms, production and wardrobe departments, scenery departments and transmission and playback facilities.
On the Maidstone Studios premises is an award winning data centre which offers rack space for servers for local, national and international companies.
- Catchphrase (1986–92, 2014—) - Moved back to the studios for recording in 2014 (airing in 2015)
- Art Attack – TVS, later Media Merchants and STV Productions, for ITV
- Mister Maker – The Foundation for CBeebies
- Prove It! – STV Productions/GeronimoTV for ITV
- Finders Keepers – World Wide International Television and TVS, later STV Productions, for ITV
- Defectors – for Challenge
- What's Up Doc? – later Scottish Television, for ITV
- It's a Mystery – Media Merchants and Meridian and ITV
- WOW! – Media Merchants and ITV Meridian and ITV
- The Basil Brush Show – The Foundation for BBC
- Ministry of Mayhem – ITV Productions/The Foundation for ITV
- The Mint – ITV, April 2006
- Cape Wrath – Ecosse Films for Channel 4, September 2006
- Dale's Supermarket Sweep – TalkbackTHAMES for ITV, 2007
- Duel – for ITV
- Big Weekend After Show Party – BBC Radio 1, Saturday 10 May 2008 10pm till 6am, 2,500 people danced to sets from top DJs including Danny Rampling and Pete Tong
- Guesstimation – Initial for BBC
- 1 vs. 100 – Endemol for BBC
- Don't Stop Believing – Shine TV/GroupM for Channel 5
- Got to Dance – Sky1
- The Door – for ITV
- Fort Boyard: Ultimate Challenge – The Foundation for ITV and Disney XD (filmed on location in France)
- Trisha Goddard – Townhouse TV for Channel 5 (from 2006 – end of run)
- Jeopardy! - TVS for ITV
- Take Me Out – Talkback Thames for ITV 
- The Biggest Loser (series 5 final) - Produced by Shine Limited for ITV 
- Later... with Jools Holland – for BBC, since April 2013
- Was It Something I Said? (2013) – Maverick Television for Channel 4
- Sport Relief's Top Dog (2014) - BBC Two
- Until 2007, Radio Caroline broadcast from the complex.
- In 2010 Maidstone Studios was used for an anti-speeding TV advert, airing on ITV between 15 January and mid-February.
- Recently old office space in Maidstone Studios has been converted into a fully functioning data centre offering rack space to local, national and international businesses.
- UK media group Flextech. (invests in UK Family Channel) (Brief Article) – Broadcasting & Cable | HighBeam Research
- "Jools Holland moves show to Maidstone". www.kentonline.co.uk. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
- Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office Take Me Out Film Focus".
- Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office The Biggest Loser Film Focus".
- The Maidstone Studios Website
- TV Ark's TVS Continuity Page (Contains promotion footage for Vinters Park's opening in 1982)
- The Custodian Data Centre Website