Launching a television channel is no small feat, but it is not impossible. While it may take many years to compete with a channel like NBC or Fox, you can find a niche audience if you put in the time, effort and research.
Choose a memorable channel name and brand. For example, Spike TV asserted itself as a channel for men with a bold name and programming like World Wrestling Entertainment.
Choose your business model from these types of models: sponsorship & advertising, participation, web, subscriptions, shopping, or a combination. Sponsorship & advertising is the most traditional model as your television channel would sell advertising space and sponsorship for your programs. Participation allows the audience to interact with the program. We've seen this in recent years with game shows that have an interactive contest run through the Internet or phone. Web is similar to sponsorship and advertising but it focuses on web-based advertising and newer methods of monetising content. Subscriptions requires viewers to pay a monthly fee for your channel or a group of channels. Shopping involves showing products on your channel and facilitating the purchase of these items through your channel's website or phone operating system. Choose the combination that best suits your channel's needs and niche.
Choose your TV platform. Digital satellite is a way many current channels are offered through services like Direct TV. Mobile TV is a newer medium that caters to mobile devices. Digital cable and DSL refers to providers like Comcast that can offer the triple package of Internet, phone and television. As a result, there is a large number of subscribers in both the United States and the UK with these services. Digital terrestrial TV is a platform developed in the UK similar to the Apple TV system in the US. IPTV and Web TV refer, respectively, to a closed network of a subscription-based service and a website with web video capacity like YouTube. Cost and availability will contribute to this complicated decision. Choose based on the best way you can reach your target demographic.
Decide if you wish to acquire or produce and commission content or if you would like a mix between the two. Acquiring content will allow you to save costs on the creation of a production studio. Producing content on your own will lead to more control on the kind of programming you wish to put on.
Decide how much new content you will need per day. For example, a live sports channel would need more new content than a classic movie channel where reruns would be more typical.
Choose between standard definition and high definition. The costs of creating standard definition and high definition are not hugely different, but the transportation of high-definition content to the media centre will cost nearly four times as much. High definition is becoming the standard, however, and you must decide what kind of trade-off you wish to make.
Create a business plan and begin showing it to potential investors to receive funding. Use resources from the Small Business Administration (SBA) and SCORE. Getting funding can take years or just a few months, but it will go forward only with discipline and a lot of hard work.
Begin contacting programs you would like to show on your channel, negotiating content rights and/or create programs that you would like to show on your station. To contact these programs, contact the production companies that have created the content. A great way to see what is out there is to contact the local production companies in your area and set-up a meeting with the associate producer of the company.
Schedule your programs in such a way as to appeal to your target demographics and sponsors. For example, Spike TV would schedule live WWE in the evening and reruns late at night, while it might schedule more family-friendly movies early Saturday and Sunday morning.
Get a license if your platform requires it. If you will be transmitting your channel in the United Kingdom, you will need a license from the Office of Communications (OFCOM); in the United States, you will need a license from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). You do not need a license for web TV.
Decide how you will be getting your content to the media centre where your channel will be launched from. Your options are: File Transfer, Satellite, and Courier. File transfer involves sending your files over the Internet through an FTP server. Satellite involves your content being sent through satellite waves. A courier service uses the tradition method of sending a courier with tapes to the media centre. Evaluate the three methods in your area for cost and effectiveness and make your decision.
Create an advance playlist using Microsoft Excel. This will instruct the server what program to play at a certain time before it is transferred to the distribution platform of your choice.
Recruit advertisers with an in-house sales team or a media sales agency.
Launch your channel with a word-spreading launch party.
Have patience: this is a one to three year process that will be difficult but rewarding.