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February 4, 2013 4:01 pm
Evgeny Lebedev, majority owner of the London Evening Standard, has beaten four other bidders to win the licence for a new local TV station for the capital in a move that could see the channel up and running by September.
The new channel, backed by Mr Lebedev, who also owns the Independent newspaper, will call on the extensive newsgathering teams across his different titles to deliver content. The channel will launch with around 18 hours of daily news and current affairs, eventually rising to 24 hours.
Mr Lebedev’s London Live beat other high profile bids including London TV, backed by Trinity Mirror, and London8, which had the backing of Luke Johnson, former chairman of Channel 4. The licence is for 12 years.
The new channel is proposing to integrate second-screen interactivity via the internet, Facebook and Twitter. It will also run 33 complementary internet TV streams covering every borough within Greater London.
Ofcom, which awarded the licence, has estimated that the London service could reach about 4m homes. So far the UK media regulator has awarded 15 out of a total 19 local TV licences nationwide, including in Norwich and Brighton.
It was vital for the new channels to achieve strong viewer numbers in order to attract commercial advertisers, analysts said, adding that the newspaper assets of the London channel would be vital in helping promote the new TV station.
“There is a credible London market and national advertisers may want to get on board,” said Mark Oliver, chief executive of Oliver & Ohlbaum Associates, a media consultancy. “But the new channel needs to get to 25 to 30 per cent reach. If they only get 10 per cent no one will touch them.”
Some media buyers have expressed concern that smaller regional channels will face difficulty in attracting much-needed national advertisers because Barb, which measures television audiences, has no plans to track viewing patterns in these smaller regions.
“The viewing levels they receive and whether they are Barb measured, or not, will determine whether they are incorporated into some campaigns,” said Paul Rowlinson, head of Exchange UK, a media buyer.
“Clearly, trusted, local content, as long as it is of a high enough quality, may have some appeal, particularly for local advertisers,” he said. “It may also be a route for national advertisers who may wish to tailor a TV message to a particular locality. However, I would expect them to attract minimal budgets, certainly at the outset.”
Tony Hazel, channel manager for Made in Tyne and Wear, one of the larger local TV licences with a potential audience of around 7m, said his station would not be using Barb because of the costs. He predicted that most of its advertising would come from local companies unable to afford TV advertising before.
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