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Channel 5 (UK)

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Channel 5
Channel 5 logo 2011.svg
Launched 30 March 1997 (1997-03-30)
Owned by Northern & Shell
Picture format 576i ( SDTV 16:9, 4:3)
1080i ( HDTV)
Audience share 4.0%
0.3% (+1) (November 2012, BARB)
Country United Kingdom
Formerly called Five (2002-2010)
Channel Five (2010-2011)
Sister channel(s) 5*
Timeshift service Channel 5 +1
Freeview Channel 5
Channel 44 (+1)
Freesat Channel 105
Channel 128 (+1)
(UK only)
Channel 105
Channel 171 (HD)
Channel 177 (+1)
Astra 1N 10964H 22.0 5/6
10964H 22.0 5/6 (+1)
Virgin Media Channel 105
Channel 150 (HD)
Channel 155 (+1)
Smallworld Cable Channel 105
Channel 167
(digital CH-D)
WightFibre Channel 5
TalkTalk TV Channel 5
Channel arbitrary
Internet television
TVCatchup Watch live (UK only)
Watch live (+1) (UK only)
Virgin TV Anywhere Watch live (UK only)

Channel 5 is a television network that broadcasts in the United Kingdom. Launched in 1997, it was the fifth and final national terrestrial analog network to launch, after BBC One, BBC Two, ITV and Channel 4. The station was branded as Five between 2002 and 2011. After Richard Desmond purchased the station from the RTL Group on 23 July 2010, he announced plans to invest more money in programming and return to the name Channel 5 with immediate effect, prior to an official relaunch on 14 February 2011 which was also applied to 5 News.

The new on-screen look for Channel 5 went live on 14 February 2011 with new idents, on-screen DOG and website address. The relaunch has also seen investment in a range of new programming with the debut of the now-cancelled nightly entertainment show, OK! TV. Audience figures for the relaunch were boosted with increased viewing figures for the main 5 News bulletins and improved figures for OK! TV in the 18:30 slot over its predecessor Live from Studio Five.

Channel 5 is a general entertainment channel, with internally commissioned shows such as The Gadget Show and Fifth Gear appearing alongside numerous international programmes such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Home and Away, and Neighbours.

On 18 August 2011, Channel 5 launched a revived budget version of Big Brother UK, starting with Celebrity Big Brother 8 followed by Big Brother 12.


Channel 5 Broadcasting Limited was licensed by the UK Government in 1995 after a bidding process that started in 1993 and lasted throughout 1994. The initial round of bidders, which included a network of city-TV stations planned by Thames Television and the Italian politician and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi (who a few months later retired his offer), was rejected outright and the ITC contemplated not awarding the licence at all.

The difficulty with the project lay in use of television broadcast frequencies that had been allocated to RF outputs from domestic video recorders. To achieve national coverage, large numbers of domestic video recorders (which output at a nearby frequency) had to be retuned or fitted with a filter, at the bidding company's expense.

The project was revived in mid-1994 when the ITC re-advertised the franchise. Tom McGrath, then-president of Time Warner International Broadcasting, put together a revised frequency plan with NTL and consulting engineer Ellis Griffiths, involving less retuning and greater signal coverage. Lord Hollick, then chief executive of Meridian Broadcasting (later United News & Media, and UBM) took up the project as lead investor as UK law prohibited Time Warner from owning more than 25%. Pearson Television, who by now owned original licence bidders Thames Television, also came on board. When McGrath left to become President of Paramount, Time Warner dropped out of the project and was replaced by CLT (known in the UK for Radio Luxembourg). Other bidders for the license included UKTV (led by CanWest and Select TV which bid £36m for the license, New Century Television (owned by BSkyB and Granada who bid £2m) Virgin TV (backed by Virgin Communications and Associated Newspapers who bid £22m, the same as Channel 5 Broadcasting who won the license) Pearson Television and CLT later merged, becoming RTL Group who became part of Bertelsmann and, control the network, after buying UBM's 35.4% stake for £247.6 million on 20 July 2005. The acquisition was approved on 26 August 2005. After Holleck became involved, he and McGrath brought on board Greg Dyke (later Director-General of the BBC) as interim CEO during the application and launch phase of the project.

On 27 February 2004, it was reported that Five and Channel 4 were discussing a possible merger. Some comics joked that the merged company should call itself Chanel 9 after the spoof foreign network on The Fast Show. Channel 4 and Five announced in November of that year that merger plans were being called off. Early in 2009, rumours started re-surfacing about Five, Channel 4 and ITV conducting a three-way merger.

Five was taken over by Richard Desmond's publishing group Northern & Shell on 23 July 2010 for £103.5 million. Desmond pledged to top up the broadcaster's total budget to about £1.5bn over the next five years, including new investment of £50m to £100m a year to boost programming and the equivalent of £20m promoting the channel and its shows in a marketing campaign in Northern & Shell publications. The takeover was partly motivated by the opportunities for cross-promotion of Five from Desmond's newspapers ( Daily Express and Daily Star) and magazines (including OK!). One commentator warned that "readers will be bombarded with references to Five. The opportunity for cross-promotion between his publications and TV channel are enormous."


Pre-launch activity

Wolf Olins and Saatchi & Saatchi were the main companies behind the pre-launch advertising campaign: "Give Me 5". The channel would be both modern and mainstream. A logo (a numeric "5" within a circle) and visual motif (a "candy stripe" bar of colours) were used, and an attempt was made to establish a collection of Channel 5 faces; through the spring of 1997, billboards of Jack Docherty were displayed, along with other unknown characters.

A series of pre-launch screens were displayed on the frequencies Channel 5 would begin broadcasting on in the months before launch as well, including a trailer for the channel and information screens.

After re-tuning around 65% of the population's televisions the majority of the country could view the channel on launch night.

The launch

The channel's launch on 30 March 1997 at 18:00 featured the Spice Girls singing a re-written version of Manfred Mann's hit "5-4-3-2-1" as "1-2-3-4-5". Presenters Tim Vine and Julia Bradbury introduced the nation to the UK's fifth terrestrial channel with half an hour of previews.

The rest of the Channel 5 launch night schedule, along with the official viewing figures were as follows:

Time Show Viewers (in millions)
This is 5!
Family Affairs
Two Little Boys
Beyond Fear
The Jack Docherty Show
The Comedy Store Special
Live and Dangerous
05:30 (31 March)
Give Me 5!

Overall, an estimated 2,490,000 tuned in to see Britain's fifth free network launch, a figure higher than that achieved by launch of Channel 4, fourteen and a half years earlier.

Re-brand as Five (2002)

On 16 September 2002, Channel 5 re-branded to Five, in a multi-million pound project directed by Trevor Beattie. The channel's director of marketing at the time, David Pullen, said:

This campaign set out to achieve three key objectives: to clarify the channel's creative strategy; to refresh the channel's on-screen identity; and to address the gap between the common perceptions of Five and the new reality of our programming - stimulating viewers' reappraisal of Five's programmes and brand.

Channel 5 was a name; 'Five' is a brand. 'Five' as a brand reflects the evolution the channel is undergoing in programming and in becoming a more confident and distinctive viewer proposition.

Desmond takeover (2011)

Upon completing his takeover of Five on 23 July 2010, Richard Desmond remarked; "I prefer Channel 5 to Five, but... we haven't met with the team yet to discuss these sort of details". The day after, Desmond's Daily Express newspaper noted that the channel's name was to change: "From today the rather vague 'Five' (five what? Days of the week? Fingers?) reverts to the much more informative Channel 5". On 11 August 2010, Desmond confirmed the restoration of the name from 1997–2002, Channel 5. The restoration was revealed on television on 14 February 2011.

Multi-channel strategy

British television has undergone a lot of change since Channel 5's launch with the huge growth in digital television. (See Digital terrestrial television in the United Kingdom).

On 18 November 2005, it was announced that Five had bought a stake in DTT's pay-TV operator, Top Up TV. It was said that the investment may lead to the development of new free and pay services on DTT, and other platforms.

Following this, Five launched two new digital TV channels in autumn 2006 on Freeview, Sky and Virgin Media:

5* logo
  • 5* launched on 15 October 2006, providing pre-school shows under the Milkshake! banner as well as dramas, films, soap operas and popular factual and lifestyle shows. The channel originally launched in 2006 as Five Life, but was renamed Fiver in 2008 and 5* in 2011.
5USA Logo
  • 5USA launched on 16 October 2006, offering drama, films, sport, comedy and youth programming from the USA. It originally launched in 2006 as Five US, but was renamed Five USA in 2009 and 5USA in 2011.

Spin-offs from Channel 5's existing hits are also aired on the sister channels.

Broadcasting and reception

The British frequency plan had only allowed for four channels to be transmitted over the whole of the UK using analogue terrestrial transmitters, but the ITC identified that UHF channels 35 and 37 could provide coverage of around 70% of the UK population. However, these channels were used by many domestic video recorders for RF connection to television sets. Before the channel could launch, the broadcaster had to provide over-the-phone instructions or visit any home that complained in order to either retune the video recorder or fit a filter to completely block the Channel 5 signal.

For many transmitters, channels 35 and 37 were 'out of group', which meant that the roof-top receiving aerials were not designed to cover Channel 5's broadcast channels. Many people either could not receive the channel at all, or required a new aerial. The broadcaster has added to the transmitters to improve the analogue terrestrial coverage since that time. The channel was also provided on the analogue Astra/BSkyB service, which enabled people outside the terrestrial reception areas to receive it via a satellite dish.

Unlike the other four analogue British television channels, the channel could not be received via analogue terrestrial broadcasts in many areas, including some parts of the south coast of England where the signal would otherwise interfere with signals from television stations in France; many areas of North East England, especially around the major Tyne & Wear conurbation; many areas in Scotland; most of Wales, most of Northern Ireland and parts of Cumbria. The channel is available on all digital platforms ( Freesat, Sky satellite, TalkTalk TV, IPTV and Freeview digital terrestrial, and also most cable operators). On 5 November 2008, the channel launched on digital satellite service Freesat, on the Astra 28.2°E satellites.

The channel was the first analogue network in the UK to use a permanent digital on-screen graphic, though this was removed in September 2002. In October 2007, the channel's logo returned to the screen.

Channel 5 is available in Switzerland on Swisscom TV and Cablecom, but unlike the other UK terrestrial channels, it is not available on cable or MMDS in the Republic of Ireland, the first such service not to be available in the Republic. However, its terrestrial signal can be received in areas bordering Northern Ireland, or coastal areas close to Wales, and since going free-to-air on 5 November 2008 to join Freesat, it is now available in Republic of Ireland with a digital satellite receiver.

On 30 September 2009, the channel temporarily ceased broadcasting on Freeview from around 09:30 until 12:00. This was due to changes to the Freeview platform, which meant moving Channel 5 from a commercial multiplex to a public service broadcasting multiplex to increase the coverage of the channel from around 70% to 99% across the country on relay transmitters which only carried the three PSB multiplexes but did not carry the three commercial multiplexes.

Channel 5 HD

Channel 5 HD is a high-definition simulcast of Channel 5. The channel launched on Sky channel 171 and Virgin Media channel 150 on 13 July 2010.

Upon the launch, only the Australian soaps Neighbours and Home and Away were shown in HD, with the letters HD placed in the top right hand corner of the screen.

Channel 5 HD was due to launch on Freeview during 2010 but was unable to reach 'key criteria' to keep its slot. In 2011 Channel 5 HD was the sole applicant for a fifth high-definition channel slot on Freeview, with the aim of launching in spring or early summer 2012. On 15 December 2011, Channel 5 dropped its bid to take the fifth slot after being unable to resolve "issues of commercial importance". Channel 5 said it "remains committed" to having a HD channel on Freeview in the future.

Channel 5 +1

Channel 5 +1 launched on Freesat, Freeview and Sky on 6 December 2011. The channel was also expected to be made available via Virgin Media during 2012, eventually launching on 25 October 2012.



The original Channel 5 logo (30 March 1997 – 16 September 2002)

The original Channel 5 logo was a numeric "5" within a circle, sometimes accompanied by "candy stripes" of five colours (an idea based around the colour bars used by vision engineers to monitor picture output). Between 1997 and 2002, Channel 5 was the only UK terrestrial channel to display a digital on-screen graphic (DOG) in the top left-hand corner. On some programmes in the channel's early years, commercial breaks were introduced by an "end of part one" sign emerging horizontally from the DOG; when the programme returns after the break, this would become a "part two" sign, which then disappears back into the DOG.

On 14 April 1997, Teletext reported that 70% of viewers who took part in a poll were in favour of removing the DOG. Channel 5 however, refused to remove it; though did state since launch, the DOG had been toned down. Channel 5 explained their reasons for keeping the DOG on screen, in an interview on 30 March 1997, they explained that:

Five's candy stripes are intended to join the Nike tick, the Levi's tab and the three Adidas stripes as signifiers of belonging...

Brand identity is the new holy grail of marketing... Product recognition is the winning move in the new consumer system. Five is being sold like a car or a running shoe. Not surprisingly it will be the first of our terrestrial channels to wear its own label on the outside... "Consumers are very brand-conscious these days..." "...and we are definitely describing ourselves as a very modern channel. It would be curious to launch an old-fashioned channel without an image in the era of Next, Levi's and Nike.

In 1999, Channel 5 launched its new 'canopy' idents, making the candy stripe more frequently used in idents and graphics. That also changed in 2000, when the last ident set came in 2002, marking a break from the 'Channel 5' branding. The latter was revived in 2011.


The first worded logo (16 September 2002–6 October 2008)

In 2002, Channel 5 took the decision to drop the word 'Channel' from its name and refer to the channel as 'five'. A new look launched on 16 September 2002. The informal name "Five" was used in early continuity announcements and idents containing a lower case 'five' had been used on the channel from the launch.


The former Channel 5 (FIVE) logo (6 October 2008–13 February 2011)

On 6 October 2008 at 21:00, Five aired a new look, replacing the lower-case "five" logo with an upper-case "FIVE". The rebrand was conducted by DixonBaxi, and according to them, the new look was "more vocal, expressive and creative."

The look was refreshed in July 2009, making the logo notably larger. As part of the refresh, special idents were made for popular shows such as The Mentalist, Paul Merton in Europe, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, The Gadget Show and FlashForward.


Current Channel 5 logo

After the takeover by Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell Group, major changes and considerable financial investment were promised by the new owners, alongside a return to the 'Channel 5' moniker.

In October 2010, Desmond revealed the station's new look and confirmed its official on-screen identity as "Channel 5" during a press launch. Desmond promoted these changes in his tabloid newspapers, the Daily Express and Daily Star. There is also cross-promotion between Northern & Shell's newspaper and magazine titles with their websites promoted on the Channel 5 website. In 2010, afternoon movies on Channel 5 were sponsored by the Daily Express.

The new logo for Channel 5 replaced the "FIVE" logo on 14 February 2011. The logo is a "5" in a red circle. The extended version of the logo has the word "CHANNEL" in upper case font to its left. The launch DOG revived the "5" motif, originally as a transparent '5' cutout in a bright grey circle. From 18 February 2011, the DOG was modified to a white semi-transparent '5' on a faint grey circle. The DOG has since been returned to the transparent '5' cutout in a bright grey circle.

A range of new idents for Channel 5 were launched in February 2011 incorporating the "5" motif featuring live action and CGI elements. They echo the predominantly red colour scheme of the channel's new corporate image, each based in a spacious studio with a large screen as the backdrop for the action. "Drums" features a drummer against a backdrop of animated shapes with the "5" appearing on a screen behind. In "Equaliser", a "5" contained in a cube emerges from a graphic equaliser display. "Imagination" features a battle between a toy dinosaur and robot figure with the "5" logo imposed in neon lights (outlined). "VIP" features a model walking on a red carpet formed from the big screen with the logo formed out of the camera flashes. "Car Chase" features a police car chasing another car which eventually crash 'through' the big screen with the logo being on the side of the police car. A generic ident with the Channel 5 logo pulsating on the studio screen was introduced on April 2012. Several special idents have also been used for The Hotel Inspector, The Walking Dead, Impossible?, Big Brother UK, The Bachelor, Europa League, The Mentalist, Tamara Ecclestone: Billion $$ Girl, It's All About Amy, How to Take Stunning Pictures, and The Gadget Show: World Tour also based around the same theme of the studio and screen. Programme preview cards feature the font "Gotham" in upper case. Break bumpers feature the "5" logo in the left-hand corner of the screen with a pattern of circles radiating out from the logo in an alternating red and black colour scheme. The latter continue to feature before and after each commercial.

Audience share

Five share of viewing since launch 1997-2008

Below is the official audience shares in percent for Channel 5 since 1997. The channel consistently has the lowest rating of the UK's five terrestrial television networks.

Audience share rose consistently for the first seven years of broadcast, reaching a peak of 6.6% in 2004. Two years later, however, the audience share had dropped to under 5%. In 2012, the audience share rose to 4.5%, the first rise for the channel in audience share since 2009.

Year Audience share


Channel 5, like all of the public service broadcasters, broadcast a wide variety of programming. The channel mainly broadcasts entertainment programming, such as reality television, game shows and imported American drama. The channel broadcasts sports events not covered by other broadcasters and also broadcasts its own news service, 5 News, which is produced by ITN (but was produced between 2005 and 2012 by Sky News). The channel frequently sticks to a regular schedule, which includes the programme Home and Away at 18:00 followed by 5 News at 18:30 and Big Brother later in the evening.

Flagship programmes for the channel include the early morning chat programme The Wright Stuff at 9:15am and afternoon Australian soap operas Neighbours (at 13:45) and Home and Away (at 13:15) each weekday.

For kids programme's starting at 6 am they have Milkshake! showing Thomas and Friends, The Beeps, The WotWots, Peppa Pig, Castle Farm, Little Princess, Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom, The Mr. Men Show, Noddy in Toyland, Fifi and the Flowertots, Roary the Racing Car, Bert and Ernie and Bananas in Pyjamas.

Most watched programmes

The following is a list of the ten most watched shows on Channel 5, based on Live +7 data supplied by BARB.

Rank Series title No. of Viewers Date
1 Celebrity Big Brother 5,571,000 18 August 2011
2 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation 4,546,000 17 March 2009
3 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation 4,487,000 31 January 2006
4 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation 4,369,000 7 February 2006
5 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation 4,634,000 13 January 2006
6 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation 4,359,000 12 February 2008
7 Men in Black 2 4,329,000 10 December 2006
8 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation 4,260,000 14 February 2006
9 FlashForward 4,245,000 5 October 2009
10 CSI Miami 4,225,000 30 June 2009

5 Text

From 1997-2011 Channel 5 operated its own analogue teletext service providing a basic range of programme listings, film summaries and programme previews of Channel 5 content. The service was provided by Sky Text for several years and later provided by BigStream Interactive in Surrey, UK. The service was withdrawn due to the digital switchover and shift to internet and social media.

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