It’s television, but not as you know it. The much-anticipated London Live, the first 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week general entertainment channel devoted exclusively to the capital, launches on Monday. A sister company to this newspaper and the London Evening Standard, it’s a product of the 19 new local television licences awarded last year by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
It’s not the first of these channels to launch: Grimsby and Norwich are already on air, and others will follow over the course of the next two years. However, all eyes will be on London Live, at least six times larger than the next biggest channel and many times more so than most. With a potential audience of nine million viewers in four million homes, roughly within the M25 area, it is comparable to some European national broadcasters.
Its Ofcom remit is clear: it’s got to be about London. So the five-and-a-half hours of news and current affairs a day, the three hours of “fresh programming” and even the acquired older favourites such as Misfits, Peep Show, Smack The Pony, Shadow Line and Twenty Twelve are all, or will be, London-themed or based.
The channel is also obliged to cover all 33 London boroughs online via the londonlive.co.uk website, which will also livestream London Live’s schedule to the rest of the country. (It’s not available overseas).
Backed by The Independent’s owner, Evgeny Lebedev, London Live has a better chance than previous attempts at a London channel in the distant past, in part because digital and technological innovation have reduced barriers to entry, and partly because with that DCMS licence came highly prized EPG (electronic programming guide) positions: Freeview 8, Sky 117 and Virgin 159.
The head of news, Vikki Cook (ex-Sky), has recruited a 35-plus strong team with multi-media skills. Her team of video journalists, with lightweight Nikon DSLR cameras both in the field and in the two new studios carved out of this newspaper’s offices in Kensington, promise a “fresh look” at covering London news, travel and weather, with “authentic” stories, a filmic look and “interactivity baked into our DNA”.
London Live: A look inside the studio
London Live: A look inside the studio
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London Live presenter Marc Edwards
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The London Live studio
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London Live presenter Louise Scodie
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Vanessa Baffoe in the London Live studio
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Food Junkies, featuring Ed Jones and Amy Newbury, is one of many new shows on London Live
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Alex Zane’s Funny Rotten Scoundrels will be one of many shows on London Live
“Fresh” is also the mantra for head of programming, Jonathan Boseley, who joined after a decade at Disney. Much of London Live’s new talent (see panel) isn’t well known on television but some already have a large following on YouTube and other social media. London Live offers most of them their first break in mainstream television.
Which is all well and good, but what of the media chatter that the target 18-34 audience isn’t watching television like it used to? That may be true – if you define that as watching a programme at a set time on a set day, once a week. However, this same audience is watching more hours of video than ever before; they are watching YouTube by the million; they’re watching online box sets, virals and bingeing on catch-up. Plus, they’re watching on laptops, tablets and smart phones as well as television sets.
London Live’s COO Tim Kirkman’s argument is that the channel will go wherever the audience is, whatever the device. And, if the audience isn’t watching mainstream television, it’s not because they don’t want to, it’s that there is precious little to their taste – particularly anything that reflects the vibrant, urban diversity of contemporary London. Is he correct? You can judge for yourself on Monday.
Stefano Hatfield is editorial director of London Live
(London Live is available on Freeview 8, You View 8, Sky 117 and Virgin 159 within the M25 and on tablets, mobile and londonlive.co.uk within the UK)
New shows: What to look out for on London Live
Alex Zane’s Funny Rotten Scoundrels
The DJ and presenter returns to his first love, stand-up, in this new series, filmed at Shaftesbury Avenue’s Century Club. It will feature new and up-and-coming comics as well as established talent, and Zane will perform stand-up for the first time in years. The series will have a London focus and promises to take more risks on talent and content than most TV stand-up shows.
F2 Kicks Off
Londoners Billy Wingrove and Jeremy Lynch are Britain’s best-known freestyle footballers. They hold multiple world records and perform at major football events. In their first television series they threaten to do for freestyle football what Dynamo has done for magic. They draw a crowd, perform amazing tricks and then disappear, leaving onlookers bemused. They will be big stars.
Drag Queens of London
London Live’s first major documentary series taps into the increasingly underground world of drag queens. It’s funny, moving, dramatic and provocative, and is set against the backdrop of an increasingly sanitised Soho. It’s sure to make (even bigger) stars of Dusty O, Jodie Harsh, Lady Lloyd, Baga Chipz, Rosie Beaver and the rest. It is also the first of several London Live series that aim to lift the lid on the capital’s subcultures.
Breezy, stylish series about a new generation of everyday London foodies making and eating affordable, delicious food. Look out for Joey Bone, the taxi driver from Croydon, who rates three versions of the same dish in the same day. And John Quilter, the Food Busker, who cooks extraordinary street food and then asks customers to pay what they think it is worth.
14 to 1
Executive producer Caj Sohal (ex-BBC head of football) promises this new Saturday-morning football show, presented by Gavin Ramjaun, with a panel of fan bloggers and lots of audience interaction, will give all 14 of London’s professional clubs a voice.
Each will get a slot every week in a show that won’t focus on just Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs. “The 15th Club” element addresses wider football issues and caters for the hordes of Manchester United and Liverpool fans in the capital.
London has the best live-music scene in the world but there is a dearth of live music on television outside of Jools Holland and the big-name acts on chat shows such as Graham Norton’s. SoundClash will combine live performances, interviews and features about the London music scene in an hour-long weekly show presented by the Capital FM DJ Pandora Christie.
Wake Up London
The fast-paced morning-breakfast show, presented by Marc Edwards, promises a London focus. London Live’s roaming team of VJs will provide greater breadth and depth to London stories than existing news operations can. Vanessa Baffoe will report on the traffic and weather from the Kensington studios and offer advice for viewers starting their day in a rush.
One of the shows that will define London Live. The half-hour nightly arts, entertainment, going-out and culture show will be brought to viewers “live from a queue near you”. It aims to bring red carpets and other London events into viewers’ living rooms, plus offer practical tips on how to get tickets and see shows.
Not The One Show
The cheekily titled hour-long nightly news and current-affairs magazine show is scheduled to go head-to-head with its BBC1 near-namesake. Louise Scodie will host panels of comedians, journalists, DJs and bloggers who will dissect the day’s news. There will also be “The Big Question”, looking at a major London issue from all angles over five nights. Viewers will have the chance to get on the show in a talent slot.
Brothers with No Game
The Raw late-night slot on London Live is dedicated to breaking fresh talent, who may or may not already have a following elsewhere – usually YouTube – but are new to television. Brothers with No Game is just such a show. Originally a blog, before transferring to YouTube, BWNG is a comedy series about four young black Londoners struggling to get on, and having absolutely no luck at all with women.