Regional TV

TV advertising doesn’t have to be a big budget “shout-all-about-it” spectacular. It can also be a selective communication medium, hitting niche audiences by age, life stage and even geography.

Taking a geographical approach not only enables smaller brands to access TV by using channels such as ITV and Five in selected parts of the UK but it also empowers brands to use TV both strategically and tactically.

There are a host of reasons why brands might not want to hit the whole country with a single message at the same time. At its simplest level it may simply be a matter of distribution. If your product is only available in the North of England, why waste money advertising elsewhere?

In the banking sector, for example, the high street brands that operate in Scotland are very different to those found in England and Wales.

Using regional TV options can be a strategic decision. Complex market analysis may have identified clusters of prospects ripe for conversion in certain areas and targeting only these areas with the high impact emotional messages that TV provides will reduce wastage.

Another reason for going the geographical route is to use regional TV advertising to test combinations of media to gauge the most effective option or combination. By using TV in conjunction with outdoor in one region and just TV in another, marketers can judge how much each adds to the bottom line.

Regional TV can also be used for test marketing products and messages before a national roll-out. And in this age of return on investment criteria, regional marketing enables marketing directors to prove the value of an advertising strategy to their finance departments. It may be easier to get sign off for a regional taster prior to a national campaign if the brand doesn’t have a history of TV advertising.

And in many cases it is also possible to do more than just spot advertising, including interactive and sponsorship on a regional level. Channel 4, for example, has run interactive campaigns for Bravo Estates in Scotland and De Montfort University in the Midlands.

The origin of TV’s regional sell lies in the way that ITV – the first commercial TV network in the UK – was established in the 1950s and 1960s as a federation of 15 separate organisations.

And more than 50 years and many ownership changes later, these regions remain the core currency of advertising by geography. Even other media such as outdoor will offer the option of advertising in Granada or Central, for example.

In TV terms, ITV offers the most complex set of geographical options. In addition to the different franchises across the country, the UK’s biggest broadcaster can also offer more targeted options.

The smallest geographical area available to target via ITV however is one of the original franchises, Channel, which broadcasts to Jersey, Guernsey, Sark and Alderney.
ITV is also experimenting with even more localised services distributed by broadband rather than via an aerial. ITV Local has been operating since October 2005 on the south coast.

At the other end of the scale, ITV also provides a broader regional landscape for brands. In addition to a Scottish macro that combines STV and Grampian, there are six other combinations such as the West macro of ITV West, ITV Wales and Westcountry that are sold as a single option.

The other terrestrial channels generally compete on geographical level with these regional macros rather than on the basis of the original 15 franchises but the borders of their regions usually still coincide with ITV franchise boundaries.

Thus GMTV offers six different regional options as does Channel 4, while Five splits the country into five different regions.

The non-terrestrial channels available on Freeview, BSkyB and cable tend to broadcast the same signal right across the country. The exception is the Republic of Ireland.

Sky Media has had a Republic of Ireland opt-out since October 2000, which now extends to Sky 1, Sky News, Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 covering both spots ads as well as sponsorship opportunities including on the Sky News Ireland bulletins.

Terrestrial channels such as ITV 1 mainly reach the republic from Northern Ireland and are major players in the commercial TV market there. Ulster for example reaches around two-thirds of homes in the republic while Channel 4 Ulster hits 70% of homes in the Republic through a combination of overspill broadcasting and cable distribution.

ITV Wales also travels to the south-east of the country giving coverage of 11% of all TV homes in Ireland.

There are, of course, some restrictions on when these options are available. GMTV’s macros only operate on weekdays so are not available to the toy brands that flock to the channel at weekends. Other channels are not so specific about their restrictions but the technical challenges involved in managing local, regional and national adverts means that some flexibility may be required.

Channel 4, for example, points out that the laws of supply and demand dictates that the ad airtime that is transmitted on a macro basis has to be controlled accordingly.

The final issue for many advertisers will be cost. Channel 4’s comparative cost is typical of many broadcasters with London topping the chart for All Adult campaigns followed by Midlands, South, Ulster, North and Scotland.

ITV: the mother of all macros

ITV regional map

Everything you need to know about the franchises that combine to create the map of the UK’s TV regions. There are significant overlaps between some franchises.

  1. Anglia covers Cambridge, Norwich, Luton and Northampton and its total adult population of 3.7m includes 1.9m ABC1s.
  2. Border is an important agricultural area and as such is relatively sparsely populated with just 317,000 homes. The local population includes 143,000 of the UK’s 12.7m ABC1 women and 128,000 of the UK’s 11.8m ABC1 men.
  3. Central is the second-biggest franchise on the ITV map with more than 7.3m adults and 3.9m homes. Key towns include Birmingham, Nottingham and Oxford. There are 1.8m ABC1 housewives within this region and 1m adults aged 16-24.
  4. Channel is one of four ITV franchises not owned by ITV plc and as in Scotland, where local ad sales are managed by Scottish Media Group, Channel-only advertisers should contact the franchise direct. For advertisers who want to hit a bigger audience than 150,000 residents of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark, the islands are sold as part of the Meridian region.
  5. Grampian is one of two ITV franchises operated by the Scottish Media Group. Grampian covers the North of Scotland. Ad sales for the Grampian region are managed by SMG Television Sales.
  6. Granada includes Liverpool and Manchester and has a total population of 5.4m adults living in 2.9m homes. There are just under a million children in this region as well as 2.8m women and 2.6m men.
  7. ITV London and LWT represent the two biggest ITV franchises, the London weekday and London Weekend operations respectively. The capital and its surrounds include nearly five million homes and 9.4m adults. There are 5.6m ABC1 adults served by this franchise.
  8. Meridian covers the south coast of England, a region that includes Southampton, Brighton and Dover as well as Basingstoke and Dorchester. There are 4.7m adults in this region as well as 839,000 children.
  9. STV covers the main population centres north of the border, Glasgow and Edinburgh hitting 1.6m homes. Ad sales for STV are managed by SMG Television Sales.

10.  Tyne-Tees contains 1.3m homes and includes Newcastle, Durham and Sunderland. The 2.3m adults in this region include 340,000 men aged 16-34 and 327,000 women in the same age group. There are 1.1m ABC1 adults.

11.  Wales and the West covers the principality as well as Bristol and parts of the Severn estuary coastline. There are 4m adults in this area and that includes 555,000 Men aged 16-34 and 558,000 women in the same age bracket.

12.  Ulster is owned by UTV Group and enables advertisers to get their messages into both Northern Ireland and many Republic of Ireland homes. Its UK audience is 1.3m adults and 283,000 children. Regional ad sales for UTV are managed by UTV Group.

13.  Westcountry is one of the smaller ITV regions with 1.4m adults living in 794,000 homes, key towns include Exeter, Plymouth and Truro. There are 728,000 ABC1 adults and 179,000 housewives with children in this region.

14.  Yorkshire is another of the larger franchises and includes York and Leeds as well as 4.8m adults of whom 2.1m are classified as ABC1s.

The micro regions

Central can be subdivided into three regions. Central south covers Hereford to Oxford, Central East takes in Derby, Nottingham and Peterborough while Central West ranges from Stratford-upon-Avon through Birmingham to Crewe.

Meridian slices up the south coast into four regions. Meridian Kent and Meridian Sussex broadly cover the counties in their names while the Thames Valley region takes in Andover and Basingstoke and the South Coast ranges from Salisbury to Portsmouth via Dorchester and Southampton.

Scottish and Grampian split into six different sub-options for advertisers whose businesses are based in Scotland and buy their TV airtime through SMG Television Sales. STV splits into Scottish West and Scottish East while Grampian splits into Grampian South, Grampian North East and Grampian North West. The sixth option is Grampian North, which combines Grampian North East and North West.

The regional options:

Combinations of franchise areas that can be sold as a single package.

  1. Scotland is a combination of STV and Grampian
  2. Granada/Border macro does what it says on the tin
  3. YTV/Tyne Tees includes the two areas in its name
  4. North is a combination of Granada, Border, Yorkshire and Tyne Tees
  5. South is a combination of Anglia and Meridian and so covers East Anglia and the south coast
  6. West is ITV West, ITV Wales and Westcountry
  7. MidWest includes ITV West, ITV Wales, Central and Westcountry

Channel 4: The six-pack

C4 regional map

Channel 4 divides the UK into six different regions for its main channel but broadcasts a single signal for E4, Film 4 and More4. There is a Republic of Ireland option for E4.

  1. London corresponds with ITV’s London region
  2. Midlands is the same as ITV’s Central
  3. North includes Granada, Yorkshire and Tyne Tees
  4. South covers Westcountry, HTV, Meridian, Anglia and Channel
  5. Scotland extends from Grampian and STV to Border
  6. Ulster is C4’s smallest opt out but also claims a 70% penetration of the Republic via overspill and cable distribution.

More than one region can be bought at a time to create super-macros giving simultaneous transmission over a larger geographical area.

A common option for Channel 4 advertisers is to buy UK only (ex Northern Ireland) and England only (ex Northern Ireland and Scotland)

Five: goes into four

Five regional map

Five offers five different regions of the country as macros.

  1. Scotland extends from Inverness and Aberdeen across the border to Carlisle.
  2. The North covers Newcastle, Blackpool, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Lincoln.
  3. South Central ranges from Northern Ireland, the West Country, Wales, Central and most of Anglia and Meridian
  4. London includes the area around the capital and extends from Luton in the North to Basingstoke in the West
  5. Ulster (Northern Ireland) has only been an option for regional targeting on Five since 2012 having previously been a part of the south central ‘PNet’ macro.


Sky broadcasts the same adverts across the UK but since October 2000 has offered an Irish opt out. The satellite broadcaster offers Ireland-only advertising in all breaks on Sky One, Sky News, Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2. The opportunities include sponsorship and interactive advertising and Sky now claims to take close to 10% of the TV spend in the Republic.

Since the beginning of 2014, Sky AdSmart has also become available to the market. With Sky AdSmart, different adverts can be shown to different households watching the same programme. Households can be selected based on factors like age, location and life-stage, derived from a combination of Sky’s own customer data and information from consumer profiler experts such as Experian.

By allowing advertisers to cherry-pick their audiences the power of TV can now be used to greater effect by existing advertisers, whilst becoming accessible for the first time to niche brands, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and location-specific advertisers. Sky AdSmart is currently only available on Sky’s wholly owned channels. 

Regional TV

There are a host of reasons why brands might not want to hit the whole country with a single message at the same time. This article discusses a few of them and also sets out everything you need to know about the franchises that combine to create the map of the UK’s TV regions.