Media Perspective: Being stuck in the past is no longer an asset for UKTV Gold

UK Gold launched in November 1992 with an episode of the hit BBC sitcom Just Good Friends. Fifteen years later and things have hardly changed. UKTV Gold, as it is now known, continues to be dominated by crusty old sitcoms from the BBC archive.

Now part of the BBC/Virgin Media joint venture UKTV, which was created ten years ago, UKTV Gold has its fair share of problems. Last week, UKTV confirmed that it has a new chief executive in David Abraham, the former ad man who ran St Luke's and then made the move into TV at Discovery Channel. Despite his good reputation, his job will not be an easy one.

Abraham declined to speak with us about his new role and UKTV's plans for advertisers. Which is a shame really, because amid the difficulties it faces, there are also some good stories to tell.

Impacts across its 17 channels are up by 6.7 per cent for the first six weeks of the year, according to OMD UK figures. UK Bright Ideas, UK Drama and UK History performed especially well. It might be interesting to note that UK Bright Ideas and UK History are the only UKTV channels on the Freeview platform.

But UKTV Gold must be a priority. A decade ago, it had more than a 2 per cent share of audience in multichannel homes (it's now 0.7 per cent, according to Barb). The likes of ITV2, BBC3 and E4 are the multichannel brands most obviously building their share, and are mixing old material with contemporary programming for a younger audience.

Abraham has argued that there is still a big demand for "retro" TV and a place for UKTV Gold and the other archive channels in the group. His instincts may be right, and he plans to make the channel less reliant on the likes of Vince and Penny by investing more in non-comedy shows.

There are other positives. Last year, UKTV announced a 20 per cent hike in its new commissions budget. Though it remains hard to name any of this original programming, UKTV now screens more than 700 hours of new material across its main ten channels. UKTV will also look at invigorating audiences for lifestyle channels such as UK Style, and it may well pull this off.

Yet you can't help feeling that beyond some solid reach figures driven by a limited presence on Freeview and the launch of "+1" channels, UKTV is increasingly struggling to deliver much that's new to advertisers

One obvious route to growth is a greater presence on Freeview (UKTV Gold's share of multichannel viewing has obviously suffered without access to this audience). However, for the time being, UKTV seems to be sticking to its pay model and launching spin-offs such as wine clubs. It's up to Abraham to deliver a more inspiring future.