Media Lifeline: Branded TV channels

Hailed as a way to combat ad avoidance, these channels struggled to attract viewers.

March 2001: Boots partners with Granada Broadband to launch Wellbeing, a jointventure website and digital TV channel carried by SkyDigital and ONdigital, the precursor to Freeview. The plan is to roll out a Wellbeing Network across digital platforms, including mobile phones, PDAs and digital cable. It aims to link with doctors' surgeries to offer local advice and enable users to book appointments. Unhappily, it closes seven months later.

October 2005: Inspired by the critical success of BMW Films, Audi launches The Audi Channel on Sky. Audi's head of marketing, Gary Savage, says it will help combat ad avoidance - a phenomenon many believe will become a problem as the penetration of Sky+ boxes grows.

August 2008: Audi had an ambitious schedule including in-depth model profiles, test-drives, celebrity interviews, historic features, product launches, driving tuition shows, dealership profiles and coverage of sporting events sponsored by Audi. But with audiences so tiny that they can't be measured and no real way of gauging whether there's any interest being generated, Audi quietly pulls the plug - though the initiative continues as a web-only exercise.

September 2008: Undaunted by this news and inspired by the notion that direct response may offer a more credible model, Ocean Finance now takes the plunge with the Ocean Finance channel on Sky, channel 888. Programmes include The Ocean Effect, which features customers sharing their experiences, and the self-explanatory Ocean's Mortgages Revealed. Viewers are able to access more information via the red button.

October 2010: Spurred on by the success of Renault TV on Sky, Renault launches it on Freesat. Marcus Vinton, the founder of Renault's branded content agency, Publicis Entertainment, says brands are looking for more sustainable relationships with their customers.

Fast forward ...

August 2012: William Hill had trialled a branded channel presence on Sky in 2004. Now it returns to the market with a new-look channel that carries feeds from all live sports TV events in an array of on-screen windows, with access to real-time betting via the red button. Ofcom is not amused at this blurring between advertiser and service provider. It pledges to embark on a thorough - and possibly rather lengthy - investigation.


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