Media: Nervous media moguls made it a struggle for Channel 5

As I headed off for the Channel 5 programme launch at the Oxo Tower this week, the smell of ITV gunfire in the air, the question uppermost in my mind was simple: how much of an impact will the new channel have by this time next year?

As I headed off for the Channel 5 programme launch at the Oxo Tower

this week, the smell of ITV gunfire in the air, the question uppermost

in my mind was simple: how much of an impact will the new channel have

by this time next year?



It is worth underlining that the discovery of the spare frequencies

allowing this advertising-funded fifth channel to launch were identified

nine years ago. For the ’modern mainstream’ Andy Warhol-style colours of

its pounds 5 million launch advertising, the licence had to be dangled

twice before real money was committed. Channel 5, in some respects, is a

testimony to the torpor of Britain’s traditional media players and

investors who failed to see through the video retuning to the potential.

It is arriving, like a throwback, at the point when pay-per-view for

live events is about to extend from boxing to football, and

video-on-demand to premium movies.



That makes it potentially dangerous: some of TV’s best minds seem

distracted with digital.



Think how different the media landscape would look today if brave

backers had allowed Channel 5 to execute a reasonable launch three years

ago.



ITV was far less aggressive. It would certainly not have been able to

conjure up five episodes of Emmerdale during the launch week. The BBC

was only starting a ratings fight back. Channel 5 might well have been

close to taking an audience share of around nine per cent by now, and

easily found sufficient advertising to justify expanding its programme

budget above the lean pounds 130 million it currently has. Yet while

conditions would certainly be much tougher for the terrestrial channels,

Channel 5 would have had a definite impact in denting the spread of

satellite and cable.



After its launch on 30 March it is widely expected to be most welcomed

in those three-quarters of British homes who either cannot or will not

pay for multi-channel choice. Zenith Media predicts an audience share

this year of 6.2 per cent in non-satellite homes, compared with 3.3 per

cent in those with 30-plus to choose from. As such it will play its part

in helping to segment audiences further between those prepared to start

paying for TV and everyone else.



Trying to assess how the new station will do in year one is hard: ’we’ll

have to suck it and see’ say even canny advertisers who long for it to

succeed. It will be audience reaction which really counts. If the

nightly soap, Family Affairs flops, it will have a big problem on its

hands. Likewise, its heavy raft of game shows, reworked from existing

formats, may prove winners, duds or both. Channel 5 is the first channel

to systematically apply the discipline of counter-scheduling, even if it

is gutsy Channel 5 trash against staid ITV trash.



It will be a tough first year, but they’ll have to come through.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in