Media Perspective: Virgin 1 will struggle to tempt advertisers to spend their cash

It's been a good week for commercial television. As the BBC lurched into another crisis (and many are predicting the "Crowngate" affair could lead to the departure of the director-general, Mark Thompson), ITV was celebrating one of its best weekends of programming in recent times.

ITV showed all the big sporting events of the week (the thrilling rugby World Cup quarter-finals, Lewis Hamilton's cock-up in the Chinese Grand Prix and Amir Khan's latest bout), and topped this up with helpings of The X Factor and Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway.

Earlier in the week came the launch of Virgin Television's Virgin 1 channel, perhaps providing another reason to be cheerful about the quality and range of commercial TV on offer. But I'm not sure that Virgin has emulated England's rugby players in pulling off a massive triumph with this one.

Agencies seem cautiously optimistic about the launch, agreeing with Virgin Media that the channel has realistic ambitions of becoming a top-ten channel, but adding that this might not happen overnight. The launch night was a success - The Riches, a quality US import starring Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver, brought in an average of 323,000 viewers, making Virgin 1 the third most-watched multichannel offering behind BBC3 and Sky One.

Since then, however, viewing has struggled to hit that high, but bankers such as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine have brought in more than 200,000 viewers. The question remains, though: Is Virgin 1 really offering much new to advertisers?

The answer for now, I would say, is a resounding "no". I like the look and feel of the station, but the odd new US drama supplemented by a diet of Star Trek and the dated Will Smith vehicle The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air won't set the schedules ablaze. Right now, it looks as if Virgin 1 will do a job, attract a solid audience and bring a few more young male impacts to IDS (the sales house that is selling Virgin 1, as well as the soon-to-be-launched Flextech channel Dave).

Beyond that, it's hard to see what it can achieve for advertisers. Virgin 1 isn't bad, but then it doesn't have as many new "exclusives" as the larger budget Sky One or as much depth in its reruns as the UKTV channels. But then maybe the idea is it will work harder for Virgin 1 than it will for advertisers.

As a channel available on Freeview, it is partly intended to reach a wider audience as well as promote the values of the broader Virgin Media pay-TV offer. I still can't help thinking that even on this Virgin has got it wrong.

Making Virgin 1 available on Freeview only serves to emphasise the continued absence of Sky One on the Virgin pay-platform and that Virgin has been unable to replace it with anything meaningful.