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Interview with Nigel Sharples of Lancashire One

Posted on - 31st August, 2009 - 12:54pm | Author - | Posted in - Business

Lancashire One screengrabLancashire One is a new on demand TV company, producing leisure and lifestyle content about Lancashire. It’s based in Preston and I caught up with one of its directors, Nigel Sharples.

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Sitting on the top floor of the Media Factory at the University of Central Lancashire, Sharples has just returned from filming at the Bolton Food Market.

“It was great,” he enthuses, “we managed to escape the showers and got some great footage of all this local food. The local mayor was there and he turned out to be a great guide for the video, a real character. We also spoke to local chef Paul Heathcote who was explaining how important local food is to restaurants.”

Watch an example of Lancashire One at work

Lancashire One does this, goes into depth on the life of the county – that North West Tonight and Granada Reports don’t have the time to do.

“We want to produce high quality local video”, says Sharples, “We’re a leisure and lifestyle channel, with a focus on the surrounding area. We’re a channel focused on local happenings, and with the use of the Internet for video taking off now – when we started people were just getting used to it – but now with the take off of BBC iplayer and Youtube the idea of ‘video on demand’ is really beginning to catch on.”

Lancashire One started under a different name in 2006, when Sharples and his fellow director came about with the idea of producing video content about Preston in the build up to the Preston Guild in 2012. The idea snowballed from there and they realised there was a niche for quality local video content and expanded the idea into Lancashire One. Sharples is keen to expand the idea into other areas.

He said: “We have a very liberal view of the boundaries of Lancashire, we’ll cover everything in ‘old Lancashire’ and we are expanding into Cheshire soon and then the idea is to expand into every county – so there will be a ‘County One’ everywhere.”

How is this sustainable as a business? Sharples feels they’ve come up with a business model that is necessary for the future of digital video.

“Research shows that people are fed up of commercials,” says Sharples, “our model works by creating sponsored programmes, where instead of getting a bunch of adverts at the start or half way through, we would create a programme – for example gardening, and the gardening show would come from the garden centre that was sponsoring it. We might then also get sponsorship from a seed company because we were using their seeds in a piece on the show. It’s still quality content but the advertising isn’t intrusive.

“We also want to leverage the interactivity of the web and when watching a video on our site, surrounding it might be adverts for related products.”

For Sharples, broadcasting has always been his career. He left school at 18 and joined ITN, and worked on the moon landing programmes. From there he moved to the BBC and local radio, before switching back to Granada and then setting up his own production company. However, he’s excited by the opportunities that on-demand digital video brings compared to the old format.

“It’s a new way of working”, says Sharples, “people want to watch what they want, when they want it. We think that it’s only going to get bigger and we’re well placed at Lancashire One to take advantage of it.”

The company is based in the Media Factory at the University of Central Lancashire and has benefitted from the Northern Lights programme, that supports new start-ups. Sharples has nothing but praise for the programme.

He said: “It’s been very useful to be part of the programme and for us it’s helped us to get a wide range of contacts and we’ve also been able to use the editing facilities in the building which are second to none.”

The company will soon be moving into their own premises and their continued expansion will rely very much on the relationships they can build with the local community.

“We need to build our friends within the community”, says Sharples, “we’re looking for local correspondents, they can get involved in creating programmes and get trained up, in return we can give them space on our website and create a local noticeboard for their area. We also need to build links with local groups, websites and blogs to find new and interesting content. If we do this, we’ll have a vibrant group of people working to help us find new programmes.”

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