New UK local TV network plays hunt the viewer

There’s something about local TV, in the UK anyway, that makes most people yawn (I’ll be keeping an eye out to see how many of you read this).

Now Jeremy Hunt, former Culture Secretary who foisted local TV on the UK (Jeremy is now working his magic on the NHS as Health Secretary) has admitted that the early viewing figures are ‘low.’

UnknownWhich makes him a master of understatement. According to audience measurement service BARB, London Live’s flagship news programmes sometimes attracts only 300 viewers (the potential audience in London is about 8m). Top performer is an ‘extreme sports’ show which sometimes manages 27,000.

If a monopoly London station can’t hack it (the others are in Norwich, Nottingham and, bizarrely, Grimsby) then Hunt’s desired national network is hardly likely to happen.

London Live, which has been dogged by poor picture quality, is backed by Evgeny Lebedev who owns the Independent newspapers and the London Evening Standard (the latter being the only one of these ventures close to making money). Editorial director Stefano Hatfield (formerly of Campaign, Ad Age and Lebedev’s i newspaper) quit shortly after the launch.

These things happen with new media ventures, of course. Back in the day commercial breakfast TV was initially a disaster in the UK until Greg Dyke (now boss of the Football Association and a former director-general of the BBC) arrived with his Roland Rat. Commercial radio struggled too in its early days.

But if Roland found himself aboard a local TV station he’d be the first one heading for the lifeboats.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.