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That’s more like it. ITVLocal.com, the broadcaster’s three-year-old regional web initiative that got off to a shaky start and is built on somewhat shaky technology, is to broadcast FA Cup games involving local non-league clubs on the site – the first time most of the minnows of the game have been covered on “TV”.
ITV (LSE: ITV) will capture on camera dozens of preliminary and qualifying round matches in August, September and October, then show them on the relevant local site. And for clubs which ITV is not recording, the broadcaster is inviting them to upload their own video.
ITVLocal.com is by no means a pretty website, and doesn’t excel technically (cynics would say it’s a sop to the loss of local programming from ITV proper) – but this is a humdinger of an initiative that plays to the heart of what I’m going to call the local tail. While the content long tail keeps cultural items that already existed in perpetual circulation, the local tail needs to tap audiences that were hitherto unserved. The FA Cup plays well with local football fans’ dreams of pulling off a giant-killing upset – fans full of passion but merely unfortunate their side isn’t high-profile enough to be covered regularly on national TV.
ITV and Setanta last year won online, mobile and VOD rights to the FA Cup, England internationals and other matches from this summer with a £425 million rights bid. ITV has a tough challenge ahead to meet its target of £150 million online revenue by 2010. Release.