Blighty’s tyro terrestrial web, Five, is investing an initial $75 million in two digital channels, including one devoted to U.S. fare.
Five U.S. and Five Life, aimed at preschool children and femmes, will bow this fall on Freeview, Blighty’s digital terrestrial platform.
Distribution on satellite and cable will follow once carriage agreements are secured.
Five, owned by Luxembourg-based European media giant RTL, has been criticized for the delay in adding digital channels in the highly competitive market. But Five CEO Jane Lighting was bullish, calling the development the “most important” in Five’s nine-year history.
She said: “We believe these two new channels will play to our programming strengths, highlighting genres in which we have an acknowledged track record.”
Five U.S. will offer movies, drama, comedy, reality, sport and chat, building on the broadcaster’s reputation for popular U.S. fare such as the “CSI” skeins, “House” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Five Life will feature an extension of the channel’s preschool strand, Milkshake!, alongside drama, films, soaps, popular factual and lifestyle programming skewed toward a female audience.
Taking a cue from ITV, the U.K.’s biggest private terrestrial broadcaster, Life also will showcase spinoffs from the main channel.
With the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 all battling it out for digital auds, Five, whose audience share has fallen from 6.5% to 5.9% in recent months, may struggle to build a following for the new weblets.
But U.S. studios, already enjoying a seller’s market in the U.K., will benefit from having a channel solely programmed by Hollywood imports.
Five’s acquisitions head, Vanessa Brookman, looks set to go on a buying spree to feed the weblets.
To staff the channels, Five intends to increase its 250 staffers by 10% to 15%.