This frenzy of activity has unfortunately confused some in the PR world.
‘We talk regularly with the UKTV teams, but we are unsure where they are looking to take the platforms,’ says Louise Gardner, head of broadcast PR at USP Content.
To recap, UKTV launched 12 years ago with a mere four channels. In recent months it has relaunched UKTV Documentary as natural history channel Eden. UKTV Gold, best known for re-runs of classic British series such as Only Fools and Horses, has become Gold, and laddish comedy channel UKTV G2, with its Top Gear and Have I Got News For You re-runs, has become Dave.
UKTV People is now Blighty, UKTV Drama is now Alibi, UKTV History has become Yesterday and UKTV Style has become Home. UKTV Food is soon to become Good Food.
Two new channels have also sprung up: Really, a celeb-led women’s channel with features including The Rachel Zoe Project; and Watch, home to the ill-fated Richard & Judy chatshow.
UKTV faced a mammoth task but bosses felt the rebrands were necessary. ‘We had to future proof our business in an increasingly fragmented market place,’ says marketing director Tom Lucas.
The proliferation of BBC re-runs mean UKTV has been overlooked by PR agencies, says Matt Bourn, MD of Braben: ‘Many of its channels use archive content in a cleverly scheduled way so opportunities are limited,’ he says. ‘But it does have new commissions so it is important to stay on top of those.’
‘At present we commission around 750 hours of new, exclusive content a year and this output mix varies from channel to channel,’ says Lucas.
This extends to the channels’ websites, which are already attracting 1.6 million unique users a month. ‘Our websites exist in their own right and offer competitions to complement the channels.’
Catherine Bayfield, director at broadcast agency Shout Communications, believes UKTV is a ‘minor player’ but great for niche audiences: ‘Good Food will be great for food and drink clients that are happy with coverage on a reputable, niche channel.’
She continues: ‘We would consider an opportunity on UKTV as nice to have but not a glory piece.’
Unfortunately for UKTV, the preference for terrestrial TV coverage appears to be widespread in the PR industry. Gardner says: ‘We have pitched to UKTV, but it is not really successful as PROs tend to want bigger coverage.’
But UKTV’s ten channels now command 36.5 million viewers a month and almost five per cent of the total broadcast market share - almost the same as Five.
There is an element of terrestrial television offering more kudos, particularly the BBC for its impartiality, but ‘ultimately if the PR element of the programme hits the target audience successfully, then TV is TV, whether terrestrial or multi-channel’, says Bourn.
‘And TV at its best is the most powerful medium to engage and persuade consumers.’
Dave Sky: 111, Virgin: 128, Freeview: 19
G.O.L.D Sky: 110, Virgin: 126
Watch Sky: 109, Virgin: 124
Alibi Sky 132, Virgin: 130
Yesterday Sky: 537, Virgin: 203, Freeview: 12
Blighty Sky: 566, Virgin: 206
Eden Sky: 532, Virgin: 208
Home Sky: 246, Virgin: 265
Really Sky: 248, Virgin: 267
UKTV Food (to become Good Food on 22 June) Sky: 249, Virgin: 260
A minute with... Tom Lucas, marketing director, UKTV
I have a food client – to whom should I pitch?
Food PROs are welcome to contact Roopa Gulatti on firstname.lastname@example.org.
What about for a celebrity-led feature?
If it is for our Really or Home channels, speak with Denise Wild on email@example.com. She also works on UKTV Food.
Who is the best contact for factual channels?
Sara Holt on firstname.lastname@example.org is the marketing manager for our factual sector, which includes Eden, Blighty and Yesterday.
And for a men’s programme?
Dave targets 16- to 34-year-old men and Julia Restall is in charge of this sector. The marketing managers will forward the enquiries on.
What opportunities are there online?
Our ten new sites are good fits for competition prizes. This is already working well on lovehome.co.uk, joindave.co.uk and uktvfood.co.uk, which is to become goodfoodchannel.co.uk on 22 June. The food site is on the hunt for talent-driven interviews and recipes.