Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

London Live is far from dead

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast May 08, 2014

Audience share isn’t the only measure of success, says Kate Bulkley

Judging the future of London Live after a month on air is difficult – and some of the criticism of the very-near-zero Barb ratings has been harsh.

The media stable that gave birth to London Live owns the London Evening Standard, the i and The Independent, and is used to being told its decisions are idiotic and then proving everyone wrong. The ES becoming a free newspaper? It would be the end of the publication, for sure. Not so, the ES is more successful now in terms of readership and advertising revenue than it has been for years.

The i as a “snackable” version of its sister newspaper The Independent? Sheer folly; just asking for cannibalisation. In fact, they discovered that people want different papers for different occasions.

London Live chief executive and ES and The Independent managing director Andrew Mullins has a track record of defeating the doubters. Crucially, he sees his new TV channel as part of “a blended model” of media, in which all the elements feed each other.

That idea is not without merit. London Live is a linear channel but also an in-house video content creator for the ES and Independent websites. A London

Live news clip about the death of Peaches Geldof was the Independent website’s second most searched-for clip all day, with more than 20,000 views. Mullins compares that with the linear channel’s 3,000 viewers per week (according to Barb) and likes what he sees.

London Live is also focusing on growing through social media – soon, seven of the channel’s 65 fulltime staff will be dedicated to clipping and socialising the channel. A show called Drag Queens Of London, made by The Connected Set, was the number one trending topic on Twitter during its airing. And then there are the YouTube programme-makers such as The T-Boy Show producer DntJealousMe, which has 117,000 subscribers and 218 million views on YouTube.

Plus, some advertisers like the engaged and youthful audience and the multiplatform approach – Mullins is set to announce a sizeable sponsor for its Fresh One-created Food Junkies series.

London Live also has a great EPG number (8 on Freeview) and its own research suggests 43% of its targeted 16 to 34 year-old audience don’t even know the channel exists. There’s still plenty of potential.

Okay, there are a few worries – the ES, Independent and London Live brands do not target the same demographic; trying to grow a young TV audience with two newspapers whose main readers are over 35 will be tough. Also, it’s risky to launch a linear channel to a demographic already catered for by the likes of E4, ITV2 and the soon-to-be-non-linear BBC3.

London Live knows it will have to create more and better monetisation opportunities, including better Barb figures. But Channel 5’s estimated £350m in annual revenues was based not only on its 6% audience share but also on its success in cross-selling with Richard Desmond’s print titles.

So, good luck to London Live. Any media that is locally focused with a high level of news content deserves more than simply being beaten about the head for low Barb numbers in its early days. It’s a bit too soon to declare London Live dead.

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