UK digital terrestrial broadcasting is led primarily by the ‘Freeview’ platform, which is leading the search for new channels across the region that will take up slots serving their local broadcast area, the most coveted of which is naturally the chance to gain the licence for the densely-populated capital city of London (England).
It has now been announced that this slot has been taken up, with the winning bid for the prestigious licence coming from the TV division of free city newspaper London Evening Standard. The bidder of Evening Standard TV (a part of the Evening Standard Group owned primarily by Russian father-son business duo Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev), was yesterday confirmed as gaining the 12-year licence for a new channel called London Live, which will air to a potential 4 million households in the city when it begins broadcasting.
Though an official start date has not yet been announced (with Freeview expecting the first batch of local TV networks to broadcast by the end of the year), London Live (who beat out rival bids including ITN-partnered London8, consortiums YourTV and Channel 6, and Made Television) have confirmed plans to broadcast for 18 hours each day, looking to provide news, weather, current affairs, entertainment, and sport with a key focus on the city.
Speaking to the Evening Standard‘s website, Evgeny Lebedev summarised the deal for his company, stating: “I am absolutely delighted that Ofcom has awarded us this opportunity to give Londoners their own high-quality local television channel. Our excellent team of journalists in the capital have the best contacts, knowledge and understanding of the London scene. Through the Evening Standard and Independent, we have proved time and again that we can deliver fast, accurate, high-quality breaking news, features and analysis, and we are looking forward to applying these skills to London Live. Our success in this bid is a testament to my management team here and the staff across both newspapers.”
The channel, based in the Standard newsroom in Kensington and taking on channel #8 on Freeview (as will all new ‘local’ networks in England and Northern Ireland, with Scottish and Welsh channels taking up #45 for their markets), has promised a daily minimum of 4-and-a-half hours of London news and 1 hour of current affairs-based programming, though a key selling point will be the inernet-based features that the service will provide, with ESTV planning to launch 33 ‘hyper-local’ streams representing each London borough.
Online viewing and IPTV will also serve as a way for non-Londoners to view the content, as well as the more open platforms of Sky and Virgin Media, which have already agreed to carry the channel. The content itself is also expected to be backed up by new developments such as new breakthroughs in ‘split-screen video technology’ and social media integration into shows.
Evening Standard editor Sarah Sands added of the ‘tremendously proud’ moment for the brand: “We aim to give the two million Londoners who read the Evening Standard a terrific service on television – and welcome an even wider audience.”
The 20th licence to be awarded by Digital UK under the venture, ESTV’s move to create London Live represents a deal that further cement’s the aims of newspapers to get involved with digital content, but will the ambitious network prove to be a success for England’s biggest TV market?