ESTV’s new London-focused channel London Live is due for launch early next year. The channel will provide Londoners with reliable local news, information and advice and will provide 18 hours of content per day, occasionally rising to 24 hours if there is sufficient audience demand.
This shift in attention from print to broadcast has already posed some problems with regard to marketing both mediums simultaneously. Chris Blackhurst’s first job as group content director is to integrate the Independent papers, the London Evening Standard and London Live, with the work for each being split between 300 journalists.
This process has already begun with the integration of the News, Sports and Business departments and will continue with the training of journalists in video journalism and creating TV-ready content. Andrew Mullins, CEO of London Live, is confident that the team will be ‘ready to rise to the challenge’ of making this multi-platform 24/7 operation run smoothly.
However, to ensure that the smaller workforce is maintained, the publisher has made some redundancies, leaving it at almost half the size of other national newspapers such as the Guardian. The last group of journalists to go, in the form of the Independent on Sunday’s art critics, has been receiving a great deal of attention from the press and on social media. How then does the company intend to shift the focus back onto its new project while faced with these issues?
London Live has already started to campaign, with the channel’s first tweet being posted to its then 85 followers on 15 August:
— London Live (@LondonLive) August 15, 2013
A buzz is also being created on Twitter with reference to new short films that will feature on the channel:
— The Smalls (@thesmalls) August 21, 2013
The Smalls, a digital community of over 8,500 filmmakers hosting over 10,000 short films has been commissioned to produce ten London-themed short documentaries for the launch in March 2014 with a brief of ‘Untold Stories in London’. Kate Tancred, managing director of The Smalls, considers this a great opportunity for ‘independent talent within London’, and believes London Live to be showing an ‘interesting use of technology (The Smalls online film community) to acquire content’.
Kate also believes that London Live is embracing the power of digital technology – a statement that is no doubt encouraging for Chris Blackhurst – as well as setting themselves apart as being one of the only channels proposing to give short films prominent airtime as opposed to being used as mere buffers.
The community of filmmakers, who have already worked with the likes of the Guardian, New Look and Universal Music will also have the opportunity to create more films for the channel in the future. As London Live’s proposed percentage of news content for the first year comes to just 28%, there is plenty of room in the schedule for the type of content produced by this new talent.
But to what extent will this broadcast venture which is already behind the initially proposed transmission date of September 2013 be supported financially by the existing enterprises? The Independent itself writes that the channel will ‘utilise the editorial resources of both the Evening Standard and The Independent’, and that ‘the option is available via [its] funding model/sister newspapers to increase expenditure’ if London Live is not as successful as hoped in the early stages.
The channel has also already agreed to fully fund commercially viable content at £20,000 per hour, and the London Evening Standard is to give the channel a daily listing of its programme schedule within the Standard TV pages, worth £3.1million market value. Financially, it seems the channel has a great head start, leaving more time to focus on providing new content, cultivating talent and winning the support of the public.
While the company is facing some issues promoting the new venture, Andrew Mullins believes that the real challenge lies in the transition from well-established print deadlines into a continuous 24/7 publishing process, as well as hitting immovable deadlines.
Although the company is making a dent in this by way of its digital portfolio of online and apps, Mullins believes London Live will still have the added task of ‘transforming the content into audio and pictures’. Despite these obstacles, the channel is presenting itself as a supporter of fresh talent and London-inspired content, and could be the new line of revenue that will bring Lebedev’s enterprises safely into the digital age.