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Katherine Levy: Lebedev seeks true media mogul status with London Live bid

Bids are on the table for London's local TV channel after Ofcom released details of the bids for licences to run 21 local TV services.

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The London channel has been courted by five bids, with proposals branded as London Live, London8, LondonTV, YourTV London and Made in London.

The London franchise is considered the most worthwhile, with a catchment area of up to 4.5 million households. The next biggest local channels, for Manchester and Birmingham, will reach just one million households. The remaining 16 channels (Ofcom failed to receive any interest for Swansea and Plymouth, resulting in just 19 channels set to make it to air) will all reach fewer than one million households.

So to London our attention turns, and perhaps the most interesting bid is that from the London Evening Standard. Not one to shy away from taking risks, Evgeny Lebedev now has hopes of becoming a TV media owner. Well, which serious media mogul wouldn't want a TV channel as well as three newspapers? His London Live offering is positioned as an extension of the Standard - commercially as well as editorially. Tim Kirkman, the special projects consultant at the Standard who is leading the proposal, says that its key strength is the marketing support the paper can provide the proposed current affairs TV channel. And with local ad sales to be led by the experienced group commercial director, Jon O'Donnell, the local sales team is ready to go.

There are at least two other serious contenders. One is from the Channel 6 consortium led by the former Trinity Mirror executive Richard Horwood, which is backed by the regional publishers Archant and Tindle Newspapers and has agreed a partnership with Trinity. It has been branded LondonTV and will have the newspaper support Kirkman says is vital to any successful bid. It states it will air "premium drama" and films alongside local content, which is perhaps the most commercially aspirational of all the proposals.

The other, London8, is a group chaired by the former Channel 4 chairman Luke Johnson, which has partners including ITN, the Press Association and Time Out. However, London8's pledge to be an "affordable" place for local advertisers with campaigns costing less than £5,000 may not translate into the hard bucks needed to make the station commercially viable - a key criteria for awarding the channel. The final two bids, YourTV London and Made in London, seem the least commercially robust of the five (see Ofcom's website for their submissions).

The Broadcast Licensing Committee says it will meet up to nine times between September and Christmas to get the licences awarded as quickly as possible. Perhaps Lebedev may soon make it as a media mogul after all.

katherine.levy@haymarket.com

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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