Some time towards the end of 2012, the first batch of UK local TV licences will be awarded. The UK government is looking to create 65 highly local stations, using spare digital frequencies. The embryonic channels will also be aided with some funding from the UK’s statutory licence fee.
Canis Media is looking to supply its skill-set to help some of the successful bidders, and Canis’s CEO Ed Hall says he is optimistic about their prospects, provided they’re sensible about their aims and ambitions. “All earlier attempts to create local TV failed largely because they were based on the traditional TV advertising model. Even more robust channel launches failed because their business models depended on traditional ad models. What has changed in today’s offerings is that there is a complexity of revenue streams, and a similar opportunity in multiple delivery streams.”
Hall says there are also other aids, in the creation of EPG schedules, and catch-up TV. “It no longer needs to be just conventional linear TV broadcasting. It could be local data drawn from web-sites, for example. There are also huge savings to be made today compared with ten years ago, and far greater flexibility, and there are neater, quicker and cheaper ways to make TV.”
Canis says it hopes to provide its fast-track – and hard-won – skillsets to some of these new entrants. “We’d like to get in from Day One to help them discuss and design business models that we know will work. We recently helped launch a travel channel onto Sky, and they’re already making money yet haven’t sold an advert!”
Hall says if the client wants them to set up an ad-sales department, or create a technical brief they can. “I see a clear formula for success as being based on strong and identifiable local support. Concrete and recognisable areas will help, and which are often neglected by today’s networks. Indeed, viewers want to see local TV and there’s no reason why private broadcasters should not fill the gap. Local newspapers, in my view, should also play a major part.”
Hall admits there’s still “a lot of grey area to be worked out, especially in the form of the criteria that’s needed to make a winning bid. What we don’t want are vanity projects, or horrendous community channels that are not likely to work in the long term. We need new commercial models, perhaps from people who are totally new to broadcasting, and who want to create fresh content but are dedicated to their regions. It looks like being an interesting time.”