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Jobs under threat as Archant plans sale of city TV station

A regional publisher is planning to sell its city television station – placing jobs at risk.

Archant says it has not been able to generate “sufficient” revenues to make a profit from Norwich-based Mustard TV, and is aiming to sell its shares in the channel to the That’s TV Group in exchange for a minority stake.

That’s TV, which currently operates 10 local TV franchises in England, has indicated it will not need current Archant staff to continue in their roles.

However, Archant says it is currently aiming to avoid redundancies “where at all possible” by trying to find affected employees positions elsewhere in the company.

Mustard

A memo to Archant staff from chief executive offer Jeff Henry, which has been seen by HTFP, states: “Since its launch in March 2014, Mustard TV has made some great, local and innovative television. Its combination of local daily news, business, current affairs, local entertainment has won it many viewers and supporters.

“The local television market is difficult however, the audience reach for Mustard is restricted by the licence we operate under, and the revenues we are able to generate have not proved sufficient to enable us to make a profit since the station launched.

“I have consistently said that the success of local Television will come from consolidation which can bring the right mix of shared investment and skills needed to make this financially viable; we simply can’t afford this on our own.”

Jeff added: “That’s TV operate their channels using a different staffing and operating model than the one we use in Mustard, with a greater use of shared and freelance resources across their network.

“If the proposal goes ahead they have indicated they will not need the current Archant staff to operate the Norwich station but we are seeking where at all possible to avoid making redundancies by retaining as many employees as we can within Archant by finding alternative roles.”

If the proposal goes ahead, it is anticipated the sale will be completed in September.

It is understood That’s TV will broadcast from Archant’s Prospect House headquarters for one year after completion of the share sale, but that, operationally, the Norwich station will work closely with its new sister channel in Cambridge.

An Archant spokesperson said: “We are proposing to sell Mustard TV to That’s TV Group, in exchange for a stake in the That’s TV Group business.

“We have consistently said that the success of local TV will come from consolidation and are excited to be a minority shareholder in a company with a significantly larger portfolio of local licences.”

14 comments

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  • August 18, 2017 at 11:38 am
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    A case of ‘butter beware as if Henry reckons Mustard tv has ever produced ‘ some great, local and innovative television” I’d ask him to name then?
    It looks like it’s filmed in a basement, on a camera phone with a PowerPoint backdrop using laptop steaming quality output,
    likewise if he believes it more likely is told it has ‘..won it many viewers ‘ why have they never been happy to tell staff and potential advertisers how many or few actually watch it

    They should have pulled the plug years ago after it failed to launch and once the losses began to mount

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  • August 18, 2017 at 12:10 pm
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    How has it been able to last for three-a-half years making such considerable losses? So many cuts have been made within the company in recent years that I’m stunned this wasn’t the first extravagance to go.

    I’d love to see what, if any, market research Archant did ahead of this foolish folly. Judging by other innovations introduced recently, I suspect little, however will happily be proved wrong.

    I do wish those affected all the best. It will be the people on the shop floor who will lose their careers, not the ones who signed the company up to such significant losses.

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  • August 18, 2017 at 12:46 pm
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    @Norridge
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbU-vh90tZs
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eZWUsa7Aec
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ik3JvoxH51E
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2DzxsB8Do4
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIO2e997SLQ
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iv4ky4cGvks

    You obviously haven’t seen much of Mustard’s output. That’s just scrolling through recent content on their channel. The audience wasn’t there. But don’t diminish the hard work of what was a small team who put their hearts into Mustard with probably no budget, they’ve produced some great stuff, and it’s them that will be affected.

    You seem butter.

    Sorry bitter.

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  • August 18, 2017 at 1:40 pm
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    ProbablyAlways etc etc etc

    thanks for the YouTube links, is that it?
    The best of MTV?
    Innovation?
    Great?
    Hardly enough to fill a tv stations output is it and
    at least now I can see Jeff’s point about the station failing to attract sufficient revenues and why

    With the filmed pieces at least they can be edited and polished up, it’s in the studio where mustard tv shows it’s true colours and demonstrates what happens if you have presenters on who are clearly out of their depths.
    Yes I agree it’s a huge blow for the staffers but you like the rest of us ,must have seen it coming a mile off and for a long time as no business can run on fresh air and blind enthusiasm alone, if the content isn’t attracting an audience and the audience is so low as to be unappealing to businesses to advertise to,then there’s only one option.

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  • August 18, 2017 at 3:46 pm
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    Hello Norridge
    The problem with Mustard was that Archant had no idea what do do with it. They only have experience in print and they were thrown in at the deep end without knowledge of what to with it when they won the contract.
    They genuinely suggested filming the front page of the EDP so viewers could read it, and some bright spark from the magazine section suggested ending the news bulletin by putting a pie in the face of the presenter! Just what you need to be taken seriously.
    As someone who once worked there I can assure you that HD cameras were used rather than iphones, they have a TriCaster mixing desk and use Premiere Pro to edit.
    If you were disappointed with the quality of the pictures perhaps you should just get a new telly?
    And just wait until you see ‘That’s Norwich’.
    I’ve seen examples of their output and one can truly say ‘That’s Shi*e’

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  • August 18, 2017 at 4:13 pm
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    Snaphappy

    They weren’t thrown in the deep end, they desperately wanted the license to prevent competitors getting a foothold on their territory but clearly did no homework as to its commercial viability and had no intention of paying for professional broadcast presenters to front the programmes, instead opting for wannabe tv presenters from the editorial department.

    With regards to quality, the problem is I have a high end tv and am used to watching 3G HD quality prigrammes so laptop style steaming is not my idea of pleasurable viewing, even if the filmed output is of good quality,the studio based programmes look like the OU looked back in the 70s and on sets rescued from skips.
    Thanks for the tip off about That’s Norwich, if it looks worse than Mustard Tv it will surely disappear quicker than Archants investment in this dire station,

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  • August 18, 2017 at 4:43 pm
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    Indeed, Norridge, the whole point of the exercise was to prevent a consortium led by a former ITV news anchor winning the franchise. Despite the ‘wannabe TV presenters’ Mustard still managed to rack up some eyewatering losses – costs met by the loss of many experienced people elsewhere in the group. What chance Archant keeping some Mustard staff on to enhance their video coverage online?

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  • August 18, 2017 at 4:46 pm
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    The only surprise is that it took Archant this long to pull the plug. What with the Norwich City – West Ham no-show, the ‘see you next Tuesday’ controversy, the £657,000 loss in the first year, and the way in which Mustard staff were given a free rein to produce television which sixth-formers would have found embarrassing, What could other parts of the company have done with the perhaps £1m+ that Mustard lost?

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  • August 18, 2017 at 10:36 pm
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    The content is not the issue. Pretending it’s mainstream TV is.

    Think NETFLIX as the model not ITV.

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  • August 21, 2017 at 8:40 am
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    Mustard tv was a complete dead duck even before it was eventually launched
    Archant grabbed this license but were clearly unprepared for the level of financing and production needed to make even the tiniest dent on an area already well seeved by two national broadcasters and a wealth of other news media from local radio, to independent publishers.
    The greed to get this before anyone else has cost them and the overall business dearly

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  • August 21, 2017 at 9:55 am
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    From what I saw of Mustard TV, you couldn’t fault the team for their enthusiasm. It will be sad if their jobs are lost through an Archant experiment that always seemed doomed to fail.

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  • August 22, 2017 at 10:12 am
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    From what I’ve seen they’ve not done a bad job considering.

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