MEDIA: UK GOLD - AN EXPERT'S VIEW - UK Gold's new advertising does little to move it from a comfort viewing zone, Mark Lund says

UK Gold has worked with several agencies in five years - TBWA/London, Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners, BMP DDB and now Mother. The quality of the list suggests the allure of trying to capture the essence of the brand remains strong. The length suggests that none has really succeeded. Which begs the question why?

The owner Flextech must be seeking an answer with increasing urgency. Despite being one of the biggest and oldest satellite and cable channels, UK Gold is 18 per cent down on audiences this year, in a multichannel market that's 25 per cent up. This will not only hit its advertising revenue but also potentially affect its ability to get on to the BBC and Sky's free-to-air digital platform - the key to long-term success.

Mother's work (whimsical, odd, charming) positions the channel as "comedy about us and features programmes such as The Fast Show and Gimme, Gimme, Gimme. The idea that the channel is really about us, the eccentric British and our eccentric habits is intriguing and certainly more pointed than the previous "TV you want to see again and again".

But it doesn't really change the fact that what's on offer is more of the same. Programmes you liked a few years ago and now have the chance to see again. In other words it doesn't shake off UK Gold's unwelcome mantle of "The Repeats Channel". And why should it - that's what's on offer.

The problem is not only that nostalgia isn't what it used to be. The UK Gold re-run concept that was unique and attractive when it launched ten years ago is now neither.

Firstly, there's a lot more competition from other time shift channels such as ITV2, Granada Plus, E4 and Sky One - the last two with the ability to shift from the future as well as the past.

Secondly, the way we view has changed. A 200-channel schedule resembles the magazine shelves of WH Smith more than an old-style TV. The channels doing well tend to be those that have isolated their appeal and audience niche more exactly than the comfort food formula of UK Gold allows. Sci-Fi, Discovery, Animal Planet and the rest, while smaller, all have high concepts that define their roles exactly.

This is not to say that there is no room for a talented generalist - the success of Sky One and E4 proves that. But to forge ahead again UK Gold has to offer more than just default cosiness. One concept being mooted is to merge it with the currency and youth appeal of Play UK for a relaunch in the autumn. Whatever the answer it'll have to be quick - the seam UK Gold is now mining feels close to running out.

Broadcaster: UKTV
Channel: UK Gold
Frequency: 24 hours a day, seven days a week
Audience: 1.6 per cent share of total TV viewing. Top-rating programme
is Auf Wiedersehen Pet (Sunday at 9pm) with 380,000 viewers.
Advertisers include: Bacardi, Ribena, Toyota, Volkswsagen, AOL


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