Will Lebedev's London Live be a success?

One week after launch, does the media industry think the new TV channel for the capital will fly, Arif Durrani asks.

The party banners have been put away, the drums have stopped banging. Now comes the serious business. After its inaugural week on this planet, what do we think of London Live?

Evgeny Lebedev’s new TV channel certainly has an original feel and has lived up to its promise of being "fresh, dynamic and different".

For some, being different is not enough. Even in today’s YouTube-obsessed age, the channel’s apparent drop in production quality has been a bugbear for some.

The label of "student TV" is among the more common snipes, while Igor Toronyi-Lalic wrote in The Spectator: "It’s as if a posh, ethnically very chic primary school won a Blue Peter competition where they got to dress up as adults for the day and run their very own TV channel."

London Live’s social media output has been active, drawing on polls and the hot topics of its eclectic mix of programming. Its output has already touched upon some well-known urban pressure points – trust in the police, the spiralling cost of housing and whether roads are too dangerous for cyclists.

Programme-wise, the football tricksters in F2 Kicks Off really have lived up to the hype, while SoundClash is as good a live-music showcase as you will find anywhere.

In its first five days, London Live’s official Twitter account had garnered some 14,000 followers. For a digital TV channel with some of the web’s best talent, in a city of nine million, and after promotions in the London Evening Standard (distribution: 900,000), it’s a steady rather than spectacular figure.

Initial Barb audience data suggests Lebedev’s group was right to temper its expectations. London Live’s two flagship entertainment shows, London Go and Not The One Show, achieved peak audiences of 49,000 and 29,000 adult viewers respectively on launch night on 31 March.

By the next day, peak viewing for both programmes fell to around 15,000; and, by day three, to only 11,000.

Of course, it is still very early days, and London Live has an important role in supplying video content for Lebedev’s wider media empire. But, one week in, what do those in charge of the UK’s media budgets think?


NO Alan Brydon, head of investment, Havas Media Group

"This won’t fly as a standalone TV proposition. If Sky Atlantic can’t, I can’t see how London Live will. But, as part of ESI Media’s cross-platform solutions, it is very interesting – if anyone can make it work, they can."

YES Simon Davis, chief executive, Walker Media

"Unconsolidated first-night ratings were pretty good, which suggests there is an audience for the channel. The original content felt fresh and experimental and, although you could see the joins, the core audience will embrace that."

NO Rob Lynam, head of display, MEC Activation

"Production budgets are low. The picture quality has been grainy, the presentation awkward. Vacuous interview questions provoking drab answers. It requires a dramatic improvement just to stay off the ground, let alone fly."

YES Dominic Williams, head of trading, Aegis Media

"Generally, the programming looked good. Like any launch, it will take time to settle down. The capital is important for most ad campaigns and, with ESI Media’s portfolio, it will do well and get our support. I am sure it will be a success."

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