Local and regional TV can survive and even prosper in Europe to cater for the continent’s great cultural diversity through enlightened regulations and cooperation to achieve economies of scale while providing sufficiently large audiences for advertisers. A recent report by telecoms and media consultancy firm Analysys Mason also suggested that European governments and regulators need to take account of different dynamics between local and national TV when setting licensing frameworks. Rules over ownership of, and advertising on, local stations may need to be relaxed to stimulate the local and regional market.
Criteria for success may also need to be revised in cases where public service broadcasters assess whether a local or regional station is viable. The most profitable ones may be those that broadcast a substantial proportion of blockbuster content that is not local at all, while those producing truly local programming may have higher costs and lower revenues and may therefore merit extra subsidy.
At the same time, however, local and regional TV can only be viable in the long term by minimizing costs and achieving economies of scale where possible, while presenting advertisers with attractive audiences. Options discussed by the report include revenue maximization, with harmonized scheduling at peak times to support advertising sales to national advertisers; and content initiatives, encouraging cooperation between the public service broadcaster and local channels, producing content at a regional level, with editorial quality standards replicated across all channels on the same network. There is also scope for cost reduction by grouping channels to address larger potential audiences, in excess say of 4 million, with sharing of structural costs.
The report points out that regulation of local programming has to take account of negotiations over DTT spectrum allocations, because that will be a significant factor for future local capacity. It is worth remembering, however, that in a world where people often live and work away from their region of origin, there will be increasing demand for viewing of local content all over the world, including via OTT and mobile TV services. Local TV will not be watched exclusively in the local area.