Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

STV aims to become local hero

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast January 31, 2013

Hyper-local strategy could be a winner in Scotland, says Kate Bulkley

Scotland takes all things Scottish very seriously.

Of course everyoneís concerned about the fallout from Israelís election or deaths in Brazilian nightclubs, but STV is staking its future on the idea that Glaswegians are equally concerned about a local murder trial, or that Aberdonians want to know why the Dons canít find a regular goalscorer.

STV won local TV licences for Glasgow and Edinburgh last month, feeding directly into its strategy for the next few years, which is hyper local and includes a further push onto the web and mobile devices. STV is forecasting that by the end of 2015, a third of its earnings will be non-TV advertising, coming instead from online/digital income and programme production revenues.

There is good momentum on the production side, having secured BBC commissions including Country Show Cook Off, Antiques Road Trip and Fire In The Night, about the Piper Alpha disaster, as well as the revamp of Catchphrase and quirky gameshow Fake Reaction for ITV. The holy grail, of course, is a returnable drama to replace the decommissioned Taggart.

The Ofcom licences will develop into Glasgow Television (GTV) and Edinburgh Television (ETV), where local news will offer a place for extended coverage of stories begun on the flagship STV channel. That is expected to drive viewership right from their anticipated launch in early 2014.

Already STV is showing a 10-year high in its PSB content ratings, including Scotland Tonight, and it gets more than 3 million unique views for its content online, equating to a good chunk of its 4.2 million TV audience reach. In my mind, the Scottish newspaper proprietors had better watch out because STV is aiming a digital gun at their advertising.

With TV advertising looking forward to a lacklustre 2013, the weak puppy in the litter is newspaper ad revenue. STVís financial results on 20 February will also update the market further on whether its digital strategy is truly working.

The STV Local online sites are being recast to be more mobile friendly, hopefully to attract more users and more digital ads. A recent partnership with US social media firm Gigya will help STV hoover up online chatter about its programmes, giving it even more information. The key, as always, is monetising all this.

The first step is engagement, something that Channel 4 has taken seriously, signing up more than 6.5 million to its database. STV has similar plans, setting up its own online research panel, Scot- Pulse, which has 12,000 contributors who regularly give feedback, with response rates of up to 50% per survey. Anyone who loves data would be jealous, and STV has potentially got a more loyal audience than any of C4, The Guardian or the Financial Times.

STV is well placed and is asking the right questions of its audiences in the right places. The only potential blot on the landscape is that its all-Scotland target audience is not perhaps as digitally savvy as, for instance, C4ís youth-skewing demo.

Will STV have big enough audiences that want to jump on this hyper-local digital bandwagon? Stay tuned. Or should that be, stay connected?

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