What does it take to launch a TV Channel?
Between the team members at MPB, we have launched around 30 TV channels, in the UK and overseas. Every single channel launch comes with its own set of challenges, but good planning, management and our expert support can get you through most of these. We are still approached regularly for advice on how to launch a new TV channel so thought we would put some initial thoughts down in this post.
What is your business model?
Surprisingly, many of the channels that want to launch haven't actually tried to answer this question. Whilst independent channel launches have declined, there was a boom, in the early 2000's, of people launching what we call 'vanity channels'. These often exist because the channel owner has a particular interest in a topic and therefore assumes that the audience must as well. It is often a "Field of Dreams" approach to revenue: 'If you build it, it will come...'. Not the most robust business plan...
Understanding what viewers want and are missing, how you can provide content to fill the hole and how you can effectively monetise your channel are all essential before you start out, otherwise the channel could be a very expensive test bed for your idea. At MPB we will give you a robust analysis of your business plan and suggest ways in which it can be improved, we've even been known to simply advise against launching a channel at all.
Who and where are your viewers?
Another way to ask this question would be 'what platforms do you want to access'? Understanding your target audience is important, obviously. If you are launching a channel about computer games, as an example, does it make more sense to put it on Satellite or online? What about a niche sports channel? Whilst broadcast television works for many content owners, it doesn't necessarily work for all and by identifying your target audience, understanding how they consume their content and targeting the most efficient route to market you will save a lot of time and money...
The broadcast chain...
If broadcast television is the way forward then you need to look at how to deliver your content to the viewers. MPB has a matrix of 'free-to-air' costs that we can provide (assuming your channel will be FTA), which help companies get an understanding of the level of investment required to get their channel on air. Parts of the broadcast chain to consider are: playout provider, uplink provider, Ad Sales team, scheduling and channel management, capacity provider, platform (DTT, cable & DTH), as well as BARB rating and PRS licenses. All of this really needs to be considered before the content is even thought about as there are a lot of links in the chain to get from a show on a tape (or as a file, it is the 21st century after all) into the viewers homes. MPB is independent of all of the major capacity providers, yet works with them to help channels understand, implement and operate all parts of the broadcast chain.
There is always an appetite for good content, however it is delivered. Good content doesn't also mean new content - look at our client 'Talking Pictures TV', they are now, arguably, the largest independent channel in the UK, with over 2.5m viewers a week and most of their content is over 50 years old. What a channel does need, however, is a wide range of content. 24 hours in a day is a lot of time to fill if you don't have depth to your library and what content you do have will get tired quickly with high repitiion. We have seen channels launch brilliantly, with great ratings and revenues, and then slowly decline as there is no fresh content coming through. Having a good launch portfolio is important but it is also essential to know what is following that up and to promote it heavily.