LONDON — UKTV, Blighty’s second biggest pay TV channel provider, is overhauling its entertainment channels in a move designed to see off competition from video-on-demand and catch up services.
It is the biggest shake-up at UKTV, which has built its reputation thanks to an exclusive deal to air reruns of BBC shows up to six months after original transmission, since the outfit was launched in 1997.
From the fall, three of its channels will be re-branded as Watch, a general catch-up service focusing on repeats of premium BBC drama like period saga “Cranford,” Gold, which becomes an all-comedy destination, and Alibi, specializing in crime drama.
Watch’s peak-time evening sked will feature local talkshow hosts Richard and Judy, two of Blighty’s most popular anchors, in a new show.
Signing the husband and wife presenters, in the past stars for both Channel 4 and ITV, was seen as a brave move by the company earlier this year.
UKTV, owned jointly by the BBC and Virgin Media, hopes the re-launch will be as successful as Dave, the male-skewed UKTV channel that has helped revive the combo’s fortunes in a very competitive market.
UKTV channel controller Matthew Littleford said: “The fact that we’ve taken the bold decision to re-brand our entire entertainment portfolio in one swoop demonstrates the magnitude of our ambition and our commitment to pay TV.”
Further re-branding of UKTV’s factual brands is in the pipeline.
UKTV’s channels are among the most popular multi-channels offerings in Britain.
The company operates 10 channels in the U.K., making it the biggest pay TV combo after BSkyB, and it claims a monthly audience of 33 million viewers.
But the emergence of services like the BBC iPlayer and the planned VOD Kangaroo offering, backed by all the main British terrestrial webs, have raised doubts regarding the long-term viability of its business.
The new-look UKTV bows Oct. 7.