|Channel 5 (1997-2002)
|30 March 1997
|6.7% (Aug 2004)
|Usually channel 5
|Freeview channel 5
|Sky Digital channel 105
five, formerly known as Channel 5, is the United Kingdom's fifth terrestrial TV Channel. The British frequency plan only allowed for four channels to be transmitted using analogue terrestrial transmitters, so it was very difficult to allocate frequencies for the new channel before its launch in March of 1997 – UHF channel 37 was allocated in many areas, which meant that large numbers of domestic videorecorders (which output on that channel) had to be retuned at the new company's expense. Unlike the other four analogue British television channels, many areas remain unable to receive it via analogue terrestrial broadcasts, notably the south coast of England, where the signal would otherwise interfere with signals from television stations in France. The channel is available on all digital platforms (Sky Television satellite, and Freeview digital terrestrial, and also most cable operators).
Since the channel's first night, the soap opera Family Affairs has been airing in homes across the UK, and is one of the few original programs to have aired continuously since the first night of telecasts. The channel had a reputation for lowest-common-denominator broadcasting, famously screening low-budget "erotic thrillers" on Friday and Saturday nights (prompting the comment by the channel's director of programmes, Dawn Airey, that it was all about "films, football and f***ing"), and concentrating its output on entertainment and lifestyle shows at the expense of factual programming. Recently though it has shown signs of moving steadily upmarket, and has attracted large audiences as the UK home of many cult American series including CSI, Law & Order, Alias and Lexx. As part of its move upmarket five won a bidding war with the other terrestrial TV channels for the rights to show the new Friends TV show spin off, Joey. News media estimate five's winning bid at anywhere between �250,000 and �500,000 per show, either way in regions unheard of for a new TV show, and very rare even for established TV shows.
In a bidding war for terrestial rights to hit US animated comedy The Simpsons, five attempted to pick up rights to screen old and new episodes of the long-running cartoon, but were pipped to the deal by Channel 4.
In 2003, the channel controversially acquired the rights to the cult show Robot Wars, for its upcoming 9th series (billed as "Series 7"), for so long a staple of Friday nights on BBC Two. It was hoped that this would become another jewel in five's ever brightening crown, but due to a fallout between the show's producers and the Fighting Robot Association (FRA), the first series to be shown on five was the last, and also the last ever of Robot Wars. After the last ever episode was broadcast, five sold the whole series to cable/satellite channel Jetix.
On 27 February 2004 it was reported that the owners of five and Channel 4 were discussing a possible merger; this was widely seen as a potential upset for Channel 4's pride. Some comics joked that the merged company should call itself Chanel 9 (sic) after the spoof foreign network on The Fast Show. C4 and five announced that merger plans were being called off in November of that year.
- Official site
Bertelsmann AG subsidiaries British TV channels sv:Five (TV)