Despite a rocky start Local TV is here to stay, according to the chief executive of Made TV which operates eight franchises.
The Local TV network was the brainchild of former Conservative culture secretary Jeremy Hunt and saw the first city-wide TV stations launch in early 2014.
Since then the channels in Birmingham and Liverpool have gone into administration and other stations have to cut their news and local content to save money.
The Birmingam and Liverpool channels are now part of the Made TV network, along with Leeds, Bristol, Cardiff and Tyne and Wear. Big Centre TV in Birmingham merged with Made TV last year. The first Birmingham Local TV station, City TV, went into administration in 2014.
Made TV launches its next station in Middlesbrough on Thursday, 30 March, Made In Teesside.
And according to Made TV chief executive Jamie Conway the network model is sustainable. He told Press Gazette he would not touch a single-station franchise “with a barge-pole” but he said that shared costs mean his network would be now in profit were it not for money spent on expansion.
He said: “We doubled in size last year. This time last year we had monthly reach of 1.8-1.9m according to Barb, now 4.3m – we are bigger in our areas than channels like Universal or Sky Atlantic.
“If you are a business in our cities a newspaper is not getting the reach it used to get. Radio is expensive, so advertisers still need to speak to a local audience.”
Local TV was made possible by a £40m subsidy from the BBC licence fee, some £25m spent on setting up the transmission network and then a further £15m for the BBC to buy in content from the new channels.
Conway said: “We were selling our news to the BBC. We were now working on how we can continue that.
“Some people saw it as a handout, we saw the BBC as one of our biggest clients.”
He said that subsidy only lasts three years post launch, with up to 95 per cent coming in the first three years, so is now drying up for Made TV.
But he said even without the BBC cash the network will be able to wash its face financially.
“The most valuable thing is our EPG [electronic programme guide] position on Freeview Channel 7, and 8 in Cardiff.”
This puts the Local TV stations between ITV2 and BBC4 and is, according to Conway, a huge boost to the size of audience stations can attract.
He said: “When we launched in Cardiff we were on channel 23, when we moved to channel 8 we saw numbers surge.”
He said Made employs around six journalists at each of its stations and each channel produces at least an hour of news per day and two hours of current affairs. It has won three RTS awards for news.
Made TV has been given the green light to launch a further channel in Mold serving North Wales. This would be the 23rd Local TV station nationally.
Conway believes that there is the potential for a maximum of seven more stations to launch in the UK.
He predicted that there will be more consolidation across the network and that the varous channels will, in any case, “end up working together”.
There is a gap, he believes, left by ITV news “pulling out more and more” from regional news broadcasts which are covering widening geographical patches. He said ITV’s approach to local TV news appeared to be “ticking a box for its licence”.
He added: “They don’t seem that bothered any more.”