Late last year Estuary TV became the first local TV service to launch
on Freeview, taking its position on channel 8 in the EPG to serve TV
viewers either side of the Humber Estuary in North Lincolnshire and
East Yorkshire. Recently, it has been confirmed that London Live, the
Capital’s Evening Standard-run representative, will receive its grand
unveiling on March 31st, with further local services expected to
launch throughout the year.
Deep skepticism and accusations of indulging in a ‘vanity project’
greeted then-Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s decision to approve
the local TV multiplex in 2011. Nevertheless, Ofcom was tasked with
awarding 19 initial licenses - part-funded by a £25 million cash
injection from the BBC - to applications focused on many of the UK’s
major cities and regional populations. An additional 28 licenses are
expected to be allocated this year, thus completing the local TV
Comux, a community-driven committee, will operate the multiplex;
it’s mission being to create a commercially sustainable
infrastructure whereby each of local TV licensees will be given the
capacity to develop their own TV advertising opportunities. The
question we ask is this: What value, if any, will the local TV multiplex
add to the targeted TV advertising objectives of businesses seeking
to boost regional engagement?
Firstly, local TV broadcasters will be under no obligation to sell
commercial airtime; how each service generates revenue is down to
the service itself. License holders may instead choose to sell surplus
airtime to shopping channels.
If a broadcaster does opt for TV advertising as a revenue stream,
then the onus will be on them to produce quality programming that
engages local communities and drives strong viewing figures.
Estuary TV has already confirmed that the selling of TV airtime will
form a central component of its operations, but with a small
production budget, the challenge is to convince advertisers that the
channel brings enough value to the marketing mix. If it succeeds,
smaller, regionally focused companies may identify Estuary TV as a
viable route towards target markets. Only time will tell.
London Live is different. Boosted by sizeable investment from the
Evening Standard, the capacity to produce quality entertainment,
news and current affairs programming – combined with its
accessibility as a Freeview channel – makes TV advertising a
potentially lucrative source of revenue. The channel will seek to tap
into its parent company’s roster of print advertisers, with the opportunity to offer package deals likely to generate considerable
interest. For businesses looking to advertise in the Capital, London
Live may appeal.
However, the recent launch of Sky Adsmart looms large over the
local TV multiplex. Adsmart is a revolutionary addition to the tool
kits of businesses looking to launch targeted TV advertising
campaigns, allowing advertisers to reach niche, highly specific
audience groups with never-before-seen precision. 10.6 million
homes have a Sky set-top box – almost half of the UK – with a simple
upgrade able to transform each one into what is essentially an ad
server; cherry-picking the TV advertisements that are relevant to
the viewer’s individual interests.
Said interests are identified by the categorisation of over 90 mosaic
audience profiles (such as age, occupation, postcode, income and
household) generated by third party data, so hypothetically a local
car dealership selling Land Rovers in Hartlepool could target families
with a household income over £50,000 living within a 5-mile radius.
It’s groundbreaking stuff, with over 40 brands already signed up and
many TV viewers opting into the fledgling platform.
Ultimately, skepticism remains rife over the level of interest the
local TV multiplex will generate. The fact is, the likes of Sky, ITV and
Channel 4 – all of which offer regional TV frameworks – have the
power to create more engaging content that generates national and
regional interest. If the likes of Estuary TV are to succeed in
delivering sufficient viewing audiences, they must get creative with
what they can offer, whilst ensuring relevance to local interests.
Burrow down to the bedrock of the question, and it’s all about