Local Broadcast Days: New opportunities in the manifold multimedia environment

Jörn Krieger | 11-07-2012

The opportunities and risks local TV and radio broadcasters will face in the new media world were discussed at the Local Broadcast Days in Nuremberg.

The participants at the show held on 10 July 2012 quickly realised: Competition will increase in the manifold multimedia environment, but local market players should not be afraid: Through their footing, competence and long-term experience in their local coverage area, they have the ability to differentiate themselves from the new competitors

British sound expert Julian Treasure, head of UK-based consultancy The Sound Agency, recommends radio broadcasters to position their stations as "trusted guides" which know their audience well and can surprise it, for example by saying "You are going to like this!". An important factor would be to build up radio presenters as strong personalities forming an emotional relationship with listeners - something algorithm-based anonymous music portals like iTunes or Spotify can't do. It would be beneficial to use their experiences in the local market, said Treasure and advised radio broadcasters: "Fight for your listeners!"

Reiner Müller, technical director of Bavarian media authority BLM, stressed the importance of achieving the highest possible technical reach to enable local TV and radio broadcasters to fully exploit their potential in the advertising market. BLM has therefore encouraged DTH satellite broadcasting for Bavaria's local TV channels for a long time which has recently been enhanced: On 1 May 2012, some local channels which have so far shared capacity on Astra (19.2° East) have been made available as stand-alone 24 hour channels on the Luxembourg-based satellite system - a move designed to improve their chances of being found and tuned in by viewers.

Müller announced that the distribution of Bavaria's local TV channels will be further boosted: From 12 July 2012, the channels will become available as a window on RTL's slot on Bavarian cable networks in digital each evening between 18.00 and 18.30 CET. This has so far only been the case on RTL's analogue slot.

As an important element for the future of local television Müller sees interactive multimedia standard HbbTV for TV sets hooked up to the internet: Through a nationwide local TV portal for HbbTV-capable TV sets which will coherently be placed on number 99 on the channel list viewers will be able to access the local TV channel broadcasting for their region after selection of the federal state and region they live in. If DTH households can receive their local channel via Astra, then the HbbTV portal will switch to the corresponding satellite channel, if not, then the TV set will access the signal from the internet in over-the-top mode (OTT). The viewer doesn't know which reception method was chosen as everything will appear on the same TV screen.

The experience that the increase of its reception area through a DTH satellite feed is economically viable, was reported by Siegfried Kittinger, managing director of Tirol TV. Through its digital distribution on Astra, the Austrian local broadcaster increased its turnover by 20 to 25% enabling it to fully cover the costs of renting the transponder space. Tirol TV benefits from a cost-saving solution developed by German technical service provider SmartCast through which only part of the TV screen is taken up by the video image to save bandwidth. The space not being used is showing texts, logos and slides accompanying the TV programme.

Felix Kovac, managing director of Augsburg-based local broadcaster a.tv, also confirmed that the channel's turnover increased following commencement of the DTH satellite distribution. He said, however, that such a costly move would require shareholders to first provide advance payments covering the transponder rent and the advertisements of the new reception possibility to make its target group aware of it. Both local TV operators agreed: Despite the theoretical pan-European availability via satellite, local television will remain local media which has to find its viewers and advertisers in its traditional local coverage area.