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 videocassette 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 licence included UKTV (led by Canwest and Select TV which bid £36m for the licence, 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 licence)
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 could view the channel on launch night.
The channel's launch on Easter Sunday (30 March) 1997 at 6pm 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 (sixth including S4C) terrestrial channel with half an hour of previews.
The rest of the Channel 5 launch night schedule, along with the official viewing figures, was as follows:
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.
On 16 September 2002, Channel 5 re-branded to Five, in a multimillion-pound project directed by Trevor Beattie. The channel's director of marketing at the time, David Pullen, said:
On 27 February 2004, it was reported that Five and Channel 4 were discussing a possible merger. 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.
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 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 STAR launched as Five Life on 15 October 2006, providing dramas, films, soap operas and popular factual and lifestyle shows. The channel previously aired pre-school shows under the Milkshake! banner. It was renamed Fiver in 2008, 5* in 2011 and eventually its current name in 2016.
5 USA launched as Five US on 16 October 2006, offering drama, films, sport, comedy and youth programming from the USA. It was renamed Five USA in 2009 and 5 USA in 2011.
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."
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 sorts 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 original name used from 1997–2002. The restoration was revealed onscreen on 14 February 2011.
The relaunch also saw 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 6.30 p.m. slot over its predecessor Live from Studio Five. On 18 August 2011, Channel 5 relaunched Big Brother, starting with Celebrity Big Brother 8 and followed by Big Brother 12, having bought the rights to air the programme following its cancellation by Channel 4 in April 2011. The deal was worth a reported £200 million. The show helped the channel's viewing figures and audience share to rise slightly year-on-year, from 4.4% to 4.5%, in 2012. It was only achieved by Channel 5 and BBC One later in 2012; all other terrestrial broadcasters fell in comparison.
In 2013, Ben Frow, the channel's Director of Programming, revealed that the station would be moving away from broadcasting just American imports, by introducing shows from other countries such as Canada, Ireland and Australia to the schedules. The station has since begun screening Australian prison drama Wentworth Prison and Irish gangland series Love/Hate.
In January 2014, it was reported that Richard Desmond was looking at selling Channel 5 for up to £700 million. Potential buyers included BT, ITV, Viacom and a joint bid of BSkyB and Discovery Communications.
On 1 May 2014, Desmond agreed to sell Channel 5 to Viacom for £450 million (US$759 million). The deal was approved on 10 September 2014 and at the same time it was announced that it was to co-commission programmes with its pay channels such as Nickelodeon and MTV. The channels operate under the Viacom International Media Networks European subsidiary. On 1 August 2015, Channel 5's five advertising regions: London, South/Central England and Wales, Northern England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland were closed with Viacom considering them financially unviable. The closure of the advertising regions allowed Channel 5 HD for Sky HD viewers to swap with the standard-definition version of Channel 5 on the EPG.
Under Viacom, the channel planned to increase its original programming output, increasing its budget by 10%. On 11 February 2016, Channel 5 also unveiled an overhauled brand, meant to reflect a new remit of "Spirited TV with an Emotional Heart".
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. 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 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, 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.
In the Republic of Ireland, unlike the other UK terrestrial channels, Channel 5 is not available on cable or MMDS, the first such service not to be available there. 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, but it is not available on the Sky EPG, along with ITV channels.
On 30 September 2009, the channel temporarily ceased broadcasting on Freeview from around 9.30am until 12 midday. 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 is a high-definition simulcast of Channel 5. The channel launched on Sky channel 171 and Virgin Media channel 150 on 13 July 2010. In Summer 2015, Channel 5 and Channel 5 HD switched places, with Channel 5 HD now being located in Channel 5's original space of channel 105.
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.
In October 2013, Channel 5 HD became a subscription channel on the Sky satellite platform. Previously, it was available as a free-to-view channel, but is now only available to Sky 'Family Bundle' customers or those with the HD pack.
On 27th. April 2016 Channel 5 HD test transmissions started on Freeview Mux. BBCB (CH105).
On 4 May 2016, Channel 5 HD became free-to-air, coinciding with its launch on Freeview and Freesat.
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. As with other similar '+1' services, Channel 5 +1 rebroadcasts Channel 5's entire programming output on a one-hour time-delay, though the 'Supercasino' commercial gaming block is blacked out on the timeshift. The launch of Channel 5 +1 meant all three of the UK's commercial PSB services – ITV/STV/UTV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 – now have one-hour timeshifts.
My5 is a channel based on the most popular TV shows that are broadcast across all of the Channel 5 network. It was originally launched as Channel 5 +24, a 24-hour timeshift of the main Channel 5 schedule. The channel launched on 4 February 2014 and is available on Freeview, Freesat, Sky and Virgin Media. The channel replaced 5 STAR+1 on Freesat, Sky and Virgin Media. The channel was originally announced as 5 Later, but changed shortly before launch. 5 STAR+1 returned on 132 on Freesat which meant Channel 5 +24 moved to 133.
Until 1 February 2016, two versions of Channel 5 +24 were broadcast: evening primetime content was the same on both, but the version carried to Freeview had continuous teleshopping presentations outside the primetime block, whilst the version carried to satellite and cable viewers interspersed teleshopping 'windows' with a three-hour programming block, broadcast at 10am, 4pm and 3am daily, comprising replays of the previous day's Channel 5 Neighbours and Home & Away episodes and the matinée movie shown on Channel 5 the previous afternoon – this was to get around restrictions that platform operators place on the amount of continuous teleshopping that can be broadcast on entertainment-category channels.
On 10 August 2016, Channel 5 +24 was renamed My5. The channel is no longer a 24-hour timeshift of the Channel 5 schedule but now shows a selection of programmes from across the network of channels, similar to 4seven. The rename brings it in line with Channel 5's online on demand service, also called My5.
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 refused to remove it though they 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:
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.
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.
On 23 January 2006 a new set of idents based on four letter words such as, Hope, Fast, Love etc. The idents didn't feature the logo.
On 6 October 2008 at 9pm, 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.
After the takeover by Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell, 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 was later returned to the transparent '5' cutout in a bright grey circle. On 5 March 2013, the DOG was moved into the 16:9 safe area, along with the rest of their channels.
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 in April 2012. Several special idents have also been used for The Hotel Inspector, The Walking Dead, Impossible?, Big Brother, 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.
On 11 February 2016, Channel 5 launched a new logo across all of its properties—a segmented 5 which can be rendered with various designs and animations, alongside a new series of "cinematic" idents, and break bumpers with text messages on them. 5Star and 5USA also adopted the new logo, while the catch-up service Demand 5 was renamed My5.
Below are the official audience shares in percent for Channel 5 since its launch in 1997. Data provided by BARB. The channel consistently is the fifth most watched network in country, usually being beaten by main rivals BBC One, BBC Two, ITV and Channel 4.
Audience share rose consistently for the first seven years of broadcast, reaching a peak of 6.6% in 2004. Two years later the audience share had dropped to under 5.0%. In 2012, the audience share rose to 4.5%, the first yearly rise for the channel in audience share since 2009. In July 2013, Channel 5 overtook Channel 4 when taking into account consolidated shares, for the first time. As of September 2013, the channel averages 4.0% of the total audience share.
Channel 5, like all of the public service broadcasters, broadcast a wide variety of programmes. The channel mainly broadcasts entertainment programmes, 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 6pm followed by 5 News at 6.30pm and Big Brother later in the evening at 10pm.
Flagship programmes for the channel include the early morning chat programme The Wright Stuff (at 9.15am), programmes from 3 top US Crime drama franchises (CSI, Law & Order and NCIS) and afternoon Australian soap operas Neighbours (at 1.45pm) and Home and Away (at 1.15pm) each weekday.
Children's programmes starts at 6 am with Milkshake! showing Olly the Little White Van, Thomas and Friends, Lily's Driftwood Bay, 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, Tickety Toc and Bananas in Pyjamas.
In October 2014, Channel 5 announced they had acquired the broadcast rights to NCIS and CSI spin-offs, NCIS: New Orleans and CSI: Cyber.
The following is a list of the ten most watched broadcasts on Channel 5 up to 14 February 2016, based on Live +7 data supplied by BARB.
From 1997 to 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.