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A NEW FORCE IN BROADCASTING: THE REVIVAL OF LOCAL TELEVISION

The following article was featured in The i Paper Written by Ian Burrell.

Beyond the navel-gazing of the London-based media, a new network of big city television stations has rapidly grown up across Britain under the control of a single company.

Release Date: 15th November 2016
Location: Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, Teesside, Tyne & Wear.

Across England and Wales, Made Television is establishing itself as a new force in broadcasting and giving audiences and advertisers in metropolitan areas an outlet for civic pride and an alternative to the less targeted regional output of ITV and the BBC.

made-in-leeds

Its “Made In” brand launched last week in Birmingham, having arrived in Liverpool in August after replacing Merseyside’s local Bay TV. In barely two years it has spread to eight major urban centres and its model has the potential to transform and dominate local media in the areas it operates.

The potential to transform and dominate

Made has been the standout performer in the rebooting of local television which former Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt put in place in 2013 – amid much scepticism – after he was impressed by the plethora of local networks in America.

Acquired formats hosted by Sarah Beeny, Antony Worrall Thompson and Dawn O’Porter feature in Made In’s schedules and were surely not what Hunt had in mind. But Jamie Conway, CEO of Made Television, insists such shows complement home grown content, which can account for two hours of peak time output.

“At the top of the hour, every hour, we do 90 seconds of local news, sports, traffic, weather and what’s on,” he says. “I reject the idea people were looking for 100 per cent local – I think they were looking for a service that was localised.”

An impressive achievement

What the 38-year-old Irishman has achieved in short order is impressive. The company has grown to 153 staff. Made In Tyne & Wear already enjoys greater recognition in the North-East than well funded operations such as Sky Atlantic.

This is partly a consequence of local channels enjoying prominent positions on the programme guide on Freeview, satellite and cable – an advantage enshrined in broadcasting legislation.

Conway lobbied Hunt hard for this, having seen the potential for local TV when founding city stations in Ireland while working for American-owned cable company Liberty Global.

made-in-liverpool

Local advertising opportunity

Across its channel portfolio, Made In has an audience reach of 2.36m viewers a month, making it viable for national advertisers. But Conway is really excited by the prospect of giving local advertisers a gateway to TV.

“[Local] newspapers are declining which means local advertisers have less opportunities,” he says. “And radio has become exceptionally expensive, so this is an opportunity for them to be up there with their major global competitors.”

Made Television was one of 15 companies in at the start of The Local TV Network, embracing a mix of business models that included small community stations. Made TV

“always saw ourselves as city television, commercially focused”, says Conway.

Its marketing strategy has included buying rights to a Lifestyle Awards ceremony which it replicates at all its channels. Viewers of Made In Leeds cast 35,000 votes for the Leeds Lifestyle Awards, held at the city’s Royal Armouries.

Tyne & Wear’s event at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle-upon-Tyne last month was similarly successful and celebrated the North-East’s most popular hotels, restaurants, pubs and clubs. It was filmed live over 90-minutes with nine cameras and an outside broadcast unit.

“That’s good prime real estate in broadcasting terms for these businesses,”

says Conway.

made-in-cardiff

Interactive experience

Other ruses have included Takeover TV, which gives nine-year-olds the chance to make the news for the day and guarantees what Conway calls a “viral effect” of free publicity from relatives and schools.

Public service broadcasting status has helped Made to partner with the BBC on serious documentaries on Cardiff’s City Road district and on the emergency services in Birmingham.

Now that its TV brands are becoming established, Conway is ready to expand the online activity of the channels to something more interactive than a live stream.

“ We want to have viewers appearing on screen via their webcams and via phones and becoming part of the shows.”

Local TV was received with cynicism in many quarters but Conway says it is helping Made to become a “compass” for major conurbations (it is also in Bristol and will shortly launch in Teesside).

Having a TV channel has made this business objective “a hell of a lot easier than somebody launching a localised digital offering,” he says. “How are you going to market that and get it into people’s living rooms?”

Conway’s vision involves
“using the television station as a springboard” to multi-platform local media hubs. “Ultimately the plan is, if you are at home in Cardiff and need to know what’s on at the cinema or about good gigs or you need an electrician or plumber, we want people to immediately think that Made in Cardiff is where they get all their local information.”

Twitter: @iburrell

Source: https://inews.co.uk/opinion/columnists/new-force-broadcasting-revival-local-television/