Stefano Hatfield (pictured left) has form in proving the sceptics wrong. As editor of thelondonpaper and The Independent spin-off, i, he successfully launched two papers at a time when experts said there was no room for growth in the newspaper business.
The question is: can he do the same in TV? Hatfield is now editorial director of London Live – the local TV service for Londoners that launches on March 31.
There’s been plenty of industry scepticism about the prospects for the new local TV franchises, with naysayers questioning their economic model and quality of programming.
But talking to Hatfield, one suspects that he might be able to pull it off again. London Live is owned by Evgeny Lebedev, proprietor of The Evening Standard, so the ability to cross promote the station is huge. The channel has a prominent spot on the EPG – channel 8 on Freeview, 117 on Sky and 159 on Virgin. And it will play into the homes of 9.5m people – who live in one of the most prosperous cities in the world.
That said, London Live has a tiny budget – just £15m a year – for programming and overheads. The money has to pay the salaries of 60 staff, as well as five and half hours of news and current affairs a day, and three hours of new programming. Commissions include Food Junkies from Fresh One, footy tricks show F2 Kicks Off, ob doc Drag Queens of London (8×60”) and shows from YouTube talent, like The T-Boy Show (8×22”). London Live has also acquired shows like Peep Show and Misfits to drive ratings.
Hatfield says the output will be urban and positive. “We are targeting a younger audience and every bit of research we have done says, “Just don’t depress us.” He stresses, though, that London Live will not be “too cool for school” so that it alienates older viewers.
The budget, he acknowledges, is tight. But, compared to other broadcasters, London Live will offer producers the chance to break new talent, be creative and to strike flexible deals. There will also be contributions from journalists at the Standard. “But London Live is not going to be the Evening Standard on TV – it is a bit younger, a bit more urban.”
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