Media: Lifeline - Channel 4's digital ventures

From FilmFour to More4,the broadcaster's multichannel land-grab

1998: Having succeeded Michael Grade as Channel 4's chief executive, Michael Jackson (pictured) embarks on an expansion strategy with the launch of a subscription film channel, FilmFour. Channel 4 is determined to stake its claim as a player in the predicted digital land-grab.

2000: The strategy accelerates as Jackson launches a dedicated horse-racing channel, attheraces, followed in 2001 by E4 - both available only on subscription tiers on digital cable and satellite. A new structure, called 4Ventures Limited, is introduced to keep the digital businesses totally separate from Channel 4's core terrestrial public service broadcasting activities.

2002: Mark Thompson succeeds Jackson as the chief executive. His main task is to firefight a growing financial crisis. Jackson's strategy had been slowly unravelling as the recession deepened; now losses at 4Ventures drag the whole Channel 4 organisation into the red. Thompson makes drastic cuts, closing the horse-racing channel and winding down FilmFour's film production arm at the end of the year.

2004: Thompson leaves for the BBC director-general job and is succeeded by Andy Duncan (pictured). Duncan reintegrates E4 and the planned channel More4 into Channel 4's main broadcasting management structure and recommits Channel 4 to its PSB remit.

Now: Channel 4 appoints DDB London as the launch agency for More4, which is to be aimed at a 35-plus audience via free-to-air on the digital terrestrial platform Freeview. Due to debut in October, it will have a programming budget of £30 million. The company also announces that E4 will be relaunched as a free-to-air digital proposition, also on Freeview. FilmFour remains a subscription channel.

Fast forward

2007: With the BBC now committed to developing a pay-per-view funding model before the next Charter Review, subscription TV becomes fashionable once more. Channel 4 seeks to re-energise FilmFour by relaunching it in a joint venture with the BBC. It is to be overseen by the BBC chairman, Grade. Rumours grow that its new chief executive is to be Jackson.