As E4 celebrates its first birthday, it's pushing its "Big
Thursday" line-up of Friends and ER to do the business.
E4 is a fantastic success by any standards. Although multichannel offers
the viewer plenty of choice and caters for many audiences, commercially
it is a tough nut to crack.
Few launches have caught the eye, let alone succeeded. Outside of the
big Sky channels, most other stations seem to have just turned up and
relied on some cross-promotion where they can get it. E4 is competing
for the highly prized "youth" audience and is doing so with ambition. It
is a testament to its launch campaign's unique tone and execution that
it is still clearly recalled 12 months on.
E4's performance is excellent. It is by far the youngest and most
upmarket channel out there. Among ABC1 16- to 34-year-olds (now that's
the audience we're after), it was the fourth satellite channel across
However, while Big Brother was running live, E4 was number one, whereas
when Big Brother is absent E4 can tumble down to as low as 12th
This raises the issue of which programmes to lead on and promote.
Last Thursday saw the first "Big Thursday", which led with ER and
Friends, and was heavily promoted across Sky Digital.
Both are great programmes but hardly differentiating and groundbreaking
such as Ali G, Banzai, Smallville,Trigger Happy TV and Jackass. It seems
to me these shows are what teens talk about and watch together.
Have Friends and ER still got what it takes? The Friends crew are either
a) doing movies, b) going nuts or c) publicly getting paid too much. The
actors are stars now and too glamorous to be "friends fresh out of
college" and the storylines have lost their comedy edge and become more
ER? Well, ER was Gorgeous George. Who are this other lot, a bunch of
squares? It's still a great story but the first episode of the new
series might have confused any new viewers as it referred back to
episodes from the previous series.
The profile of the channel means that advertisers quite rightly love it
and "Big Thursday's" first break had Orange text messaging, COI
Communications (for the Army and TTA), a Nelly Furtado CD, a trailer for
the comedy film Rat Race and (the excellent) Grolsch lager, all of which
are of high quality and will be back for more.
There was also a reminder to watch "Second Chance Sunday" when "Big
Thursday" will be shown all over again.
The big-night strategy makes sense as a mechanism for trial and it
appears that the repetitive nature of E4's schedule has had no adverse
effect on the value of those programmes.
To date, Channel 4 must be delighted with its multichannel successes,
although to keep E4 differentiated I wouldn't go for a ninth new series
of ER or Friends.
Frequency Thursday nights from 9pm, repeated Sunday
Audience Not available because of the Barb blackout
Advertisers include Orange text messaging, COI Communications (the Army
and TTA), Grolsch, Paramount Pictures