Sky is launching a pilot news, sports and events service in the Tyne and Wear area. It is a new departure for us: until now all Sky's services including news, sport and entertainment have been focused on Britain as a whole, with no regional variations.
It is an exciting idea. It will be available free on digital platforms, internet and mobile, with video shot by highly mobile video journalists armed with the latest lightweight cameras.
Mostly, these "mo-jos" will be on the road, editing their stories on laptops and sending them back via wifi or 3G connections. Our first two video-journalists, one a postgraduate from Sunderland University, have already joined, and the others will be recruited over the next few weeks.
Why is Sky looking at a local service? In common with many journalists, I worked in local news at the start of my career, so I know why a sense of connection with events in your local community is so highly valued by many people. Events on your own doorstep inevitably resonate more than those further afield.
Why has Sky chosen Tyne and Wear? The local population are rightly proud of their area and are keen to know more about what's happening. Their loyalties are divided over many things, not least football, but they are united in a common conviction that they live in the best place in Britain.
There is certainly plenty happening there which is why we intend to add an events listings service to the news and sports coverage. It will cover everything from the big entertainment attractions at venues like the Metro Radio Arena to the hundreds of smaller events organised by the community itself. Our users will be encouraged to contribute to the service with their own pictures, videos and comments.
We hope that Sky Tyne and Wear will be as popular with expat Tyne and Wearsiders as those still living in the area, since our research shows that many of those who move away from the area continue to stay in touch with the local news and sport.
This pilot will test our belief that there’s an opportunity to supplement existing sources of local news with a vibrant and dynamic video-focused website, adhering to the high editorial and presentational standards Sky sets itself. If, as we hope, the service is well received in Tyne and Wear, it will provide the foundation for further opportunities in other regions.