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Reach hits back at TV network’s ‘leading local media platform’ claims

A regional publisher has hit back at a local television network’s claim that it has established itself as the “leading local media platform” in some of the country’s biggest cities.

Local TV, which runs eight channels across England and Wales, has claimed it now “offers better value to its advertisers” than newspapers operating in the cities it serves after announcing an increase in audience figures.

The network, which is chaired by former Local World chief executive David Montgomery, says the average daily viewership of Birmingham TV, Bristol TV, Liverpool TV and Tyne and Wear TV has overtaken the equivalent local daily newspaper circulation – comparing the recently published ABC circulation figures with its own recent viewership statistics.

But Reach plc, which runs print and digital operations in those cities, has questioned Local TV’s claims – citing different figures published by JICREG and comScore, which measure print and digital readership respectively.

In an announcement about its viewing figures, Local TV said it had established itself “as the leading local media platform in all of its main markets”, adding that its viewership “offers better value to its advertisers than newspaper readership across a similar group of regions”.

Chief executive Lesley Mackenzie said: “This rising trend in viewership is in direct contrast to that of newspapers. All of our print competitors have suffered double digit declines year on year.

“What is more remarkable is that the newspaper circulation reports are up to eight months old so the advertiser is not getting an accurate picture.”

The company cited February’s ABC circulation figures in its statement, and told HTFP its estimates for total readership were based on a “widely accepted” formula of multiplying the ABC statistics by 1.8.

Local TV claimed Birmingham TV had an average daily audience of 40,000 in February, compared with the Birmingham Mail’s circulation of 14,448 and readership of 26,000, while Tyne & Wear TV had an average of 36,000 viewers, compared with the Newcastle Chronicle’s 19,259 circulation and readership of 34,000.

It also said its viewerships in Bristol and Liverpool outstripped the circulations of the Bristol Post and Liverpool Echo, further adding it was “at least equal” to their readerships based on the aforementioned formula.

David Montgomery said: “Our young staff are giving voice to the great cities and communities they serve. More and more they are recognised in the street as local personalities and get credit for championing the community, its culture and sport.

“Every day our viewers appear on screen commenting on big national issues. No other media brings this strong local reporting into the home and on mobile. Local TV is proud to be replacing old fashioned print so that our great cities continue to be represented.”

But a Reach spokeswoman said: “We are curious as to where the readership numbers have come from, as they don’t match the figures in JICREG – the industry currency for local news readership.

“For example, the Bristol Post has a daily print readership (AIR) of 39,000, and the Liverpool Echo has an AIR of 97,870.

“Circulation and viewership are also famously hard to compare like for like. But we are always happy to have a conversation about the scale of our local newsbrands, particularly in the digital space. In January 2019, our digital regional titles reached 26.8m UK adults in the UK.”

Local TV also said its Leeds TV station had a viewership of 34,000, outstripping the combined circulations of JPIMedia dailies the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post. HTFP has approached JPIMedia for a comment.