CAMPAIGNS: Weekly Web Watch - Channel 4 fails to bring E4 into line

Organisation: Channel 4

Organisation: Channel 4

Issue: Launch of E4


Given that Channel 4's latest digital spin-off, E4, launched yesterday (18 January), you might have expected its website to be psyching potential viewers up in the days before it went on air.

A sexy flash on the homepage? Maybe a link to a dedicated site? An idea of what's going to be on the channel ...? But no, there's nothing.

The channel has been spending a lot of cash on TV ads and press inserts to flag up yesterday's launch night with Ali G, and to promote the new series of Friends and other C4 favourites that will be showing on E4 - but it hasn't yet extended its marketing programme to integrate with its main site.

The Channel 4 site, designed by Bomb Productions, is as cutting edge and funky as the channel's reputation, but it is curiously impersonal on the surface.

The first link is to 'Guide', a searchable listing of TV programmes, which appears to be identical to the separate 'Today's TV' section.

There's also 'Play', with games, competitions, downloadable Big Breakfast screensavers and Friends postcards, and 'Help', which has all the technical info needed to optimise site usage.

The reason a company is in the news is often hidden away in its online press room, but no mentions of E4 can be found here either - and the most recent release was two months ago in November 2000.

Time to check out the 'Talk' section, with chat forums on various C4 programmes and topics, chats with the station's stars and celebrity zone, and the Reach4 forum, where any aspect of C4 can be discussed.

At last, there is mention of E4 on Reach 4, with a discussion thread running to hundreds of messages. This is full of rumours, anxiety about whether it will be available on Sky, whether it will be free, and what will be broadcast.

Channel 4 has obviously been keen to nurture this word-of-mouth in the run-up to the launch, and there are several entries from the 'C4 Ed', pronouncing on the progress of the new channel. There's even a link here in one posting to a launch website,

This site is running, but sadly PR Week's Macs were unable to get past the temptingly cool and colourful home-page (our browsers cannot support the site's whizz-bang technology).

There are already links on the main Channel 4 site to sites dedicated to its T4 youth programming, Filmfour, the Channel 4 News, cricket, racing and even Scrapheap Challenge, as well as its commercial distribution arm C4 International - this is where the link to the E4 site is likely to be found once the station is launched.

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