Dell Entrepreneur Spotlight Series: Jamie Conway

Jamie Conway, CEO of Made TV

Jamie Conway, CEO of Made TV

Key to launching any successful product or service is spotting a gap in the market and designing something that can fill that void. Sometimes, that can be as simple as launching a product – in other cases, addressing a market need can require something more.

For Made TV CEO Jamie Conway, that something extra took the form of U.K. government lobbying to help instigate change. A strong believer in providing a service that fits with the audience, Conway founded Made TV to provide local information to television viewers and give regional businesses access to relevant and cost-effective TV advertising.

I caught up with Conway to learn more about his TV enterprise, the challenges he’s faced along the way, and his top tips for fellow entrepreneurs.

What is your business Made TV all about?

Made TV was founded because of a gap in the television landscape for advertisers and consumers alike to be able to communicate to a geographically close audience. The TV advertising market in the UK is worth £3.2 billion ($5.2 billion) per annum, but there are only national and regional systems of buying air-time. As a result, the cost to advertise is prohibitively high for small and medium enterprises.

A restaurant in Cardiff, for example, can’t advertise on ITV Wales as the service is delivered across the entire nation, including to viewers hundreds of miles away who will never frequent the establishment. What’s more, trying to get content that’s “local” to someone in a city like Cardiff, when BBC Wales and ITV Wales have a remit for the whole nation, results in a mishmash that ends up being relevant for a tiny section of the audience watching.

What were your main obstacles in starting up?

The biggest obstacle was legislative — there’s never been government-supported local TV in the U.K. so we had to start from the bottom, persuading politicians across political parties to bring in a system of licensing these stations.

The two barriers to entry for local TV are EPG position (electronic program guide) and the available radio spectrum, which is how TV is broadcast over the airwaves. We’ve come a long way, having managed to persuade the government to make local TV a PSB (public service broadcaster) and therefore got front-page positioning on the EPG and gifted spectrum, as well as some BBC license fee money.

What inspired you to start a business centered on ‘local TV’?

Advertisers are struggling to afford TV and, as a result, many companies cannot afford to compete with the giant brands and are at a significant disadvantage.

Events, news, sports and weather all form content that’s in demand by viewers, but TV is not serving this need at a local level. The average U.K. citizen may watch TV for more than four hours per day (85% of which is as-live, not on catch-up), but the content they watch usually has little geographical relevance to where they are.

Why is it difficult to raise funding in the TV space?

TV is seen as an “old” medium despite the fact that, other than digital, it’s the only medium that didn’t see a fall in revenue during the recession. Addressing this myth is always our biggest challenge, along with showing how TV will operate in the future, thanks to the likes of new devices and second-screening trends. There is also no history of local TV in the U.K. and the assumption is that it is an expensive product to make, despite massive technological advances in recent years which have significantly cut the costs of making TV.

What’s needed to improve access to finance for small businesses in the U.K.?

More tax breaks and provisions for investors — things like the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) need to be expanded to allow institutional investors to put in their money. The use of tax breaks and exemptions for new companies is a lot more useful than handing out grants.

How has technology made a difference to helping you grow Made TV?

Our capital expenditure would have been double what it is today if we had launched four years ago. On top of that, communications and the cloud mean that resources are no longer geographically restricted. If a breaking story in Bristol requires us to put on more editors, we can do that instantly from another city like Leeds, allowing our teams to multitask in their roles without relying on fixed work stations.

What’s next for Made TV?

We’re looking to reinvent the concept of how people watch and engage with TV. By the end of year three, we aim to be the premier source of information and entertainment across all digital and TV platforms. We want to be the destination for all local queries whether that’s discovering events, reviews of restaurants and bars, or finding a decent plumber.

If you could offer advice about growing the business to your younger self of a few years back, what would it be? 

Do it sooner, don’t hesitate and assume everything will take longer than you think! No matter how technological your business is, see technology as an enabler for growth and identify the IT savvy people within your business who will implement and champion the tools internally.

You can follow Conway on Twitter at @JamieMadeTV and check out the Made TV website. You can find out more about him on the Dell U.K. Centre for Entrepreneurs: dell.co.uk/entrepreneurs.

Sarah Shields

Sarah Shields

Dell Contributor at Tech Page One
Sarah Shields is the executive director responsible for direct and channel sales for Dell in the UK and Ireland for Dell's consumer and small business organizations.
Sarah Shields
Tags: Business,Entrepreneurship