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BARB TV audience figures throttle local TV station ad revenue, says London Live COO Tim Kirkman

The BARB TV audience measuring system is under-representing smaller TV stations and changes should be made to accommodate the changing TV landscape, according to London Live chief operating officer Tim Kirkman, who led the launch of the local TV station.

Going local: ESI Media launched London Live this year

Speaking to The Drum at the Ericsson Executive Media Summit in Sweden, Kirkman said YouGov figures estimate London Live has twice the reach BARB figures show, and said that the business was taking a hit because TV ad revenue deals with media agencies are dependent on BARB measurement.

“BARB is a mechanism which is designed and works for the five public service broadcasters,” he said. “If you’re below the one per cent audience share mark, you’re always struggling.

“All minority or small TV stations have the same issues. For a good night of TV I need to get 10 BARB homes watching – I cannot. It’s not a sustainable model.”

ESI Media secured the licence for London Live in 2011 when the government opened up opportunities for a wave of local TV stations. However, because of advertisers’ requirements for BARB figures, Kirkman said he was trying to diversify ad revenue and make it more sustainable through deals, for example, for long-form TV advertising formats.

“As a business we are doing great,” he said. “As for revenue lines we are still working hard on this. We are going to have to look at flexibility in our business model.

“The other issue with BARB is that once you’re delivering a one per cent share of the audience, the next day you’re delivering 0.1 per cent. It’s crazy, it’s up and down every day. We need more consistency for the business.

“We have a great audience – whether you look at BARB or YouGov – it’s about finding ways to monetise it properly within the advertising community.”

Kirkman oversaw the conception and launch of London Live following the licence win in 2011 and launch in March of this year. The channel currently has a 700,000 reach – or 1.2 million if YouGov figures are used, according to Kirkman – and is taking a 0.2/0.3 per cent audience share, a figure the channel hopes will rise to around 0.7 per cent by the end of year one.

The channel is run by 65 members of staff and journalists/presenters are responsible for writing their own scripts and creating content that can stretch across platforms. The London Live studios even have robots operating in place of cameramen in a bid to keep costs lower.

Kirkman said he considers London Live a “video and content creation” business rather than simply a TV station and content created on London Live can be used across ESI Media’s other assets. ESI Media owns the Independent and i newspapers, and the London Evening Standard, which it transformed into a free paper after acquiring it and turned a £30m annual loss back around to profit.

During a presentation to delegates at the summit, Kirkman spoke of the importance of publishers diversifying their print offerings and creating multimedia businesses.

According to Enders figures, he said, print-only companies “have eight years” left if they carry on business on traditional models and ESI Media “had no choice” but to change.

Last week, Metro managing director Steve Auckland announced he was quitting the paper, a rival freesheet to the Evening Standard, to join ESI Media as CEO of the brands and take London Live "to the next stage”.

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