TOP PERFORMERS OF 2002: Medium of the Year - Five

In a generally bad year for commercial TV broadcasters, Five stood out through its investment in programmes and benefited with a 23 per cent increase in revenue.

Last year was one of the most tumultuous in the history of commercial television. Against a backdrop of an on-going advertising recession, a well-funded and commercially focused BBC, the new and controversial Barb panel as well as the Government's dogged commitment to introducing digital TV, most TV companies struggled.

But amid all the doom and gloom, one TV station surprised everyone by bucking the trend and performing well above expectations. This station was Five, the RTL and United Business Media joint venture, which celebrated its fifth birthday with impressive increases in both audience and ad revenue, the prize of Best Terrestrial Channel at the Edinburgh TV Festival and, now, its coronation as Campaign's Medium of the Year.

Last year can justifiably be seen as a watershed for the station. Under the stewardship of its chief executive, Dawn Airey (and, latterly, Nick Milligan), it finally achieved recognition as a mainstream entertainment network.

Elsewhere, things weren't so happy - Carlton and Granada finally put their disastrous digital television venture, ITV Digital, to sleep, after it had haemorrhaged £1.2 billion of shareholders' funds. The shockwaves from the collapse of ITV Digital were to be felt for the rest of the year at the Network Centre as the tempered investment in the core ITV1 channel became obvious.

Channel 4, under its new chief executive, Mark Thompson, was also suffering from the combined effects of the new Barb panel and the depressed TV market.

Thompson took decisive action and Channel 4 underwent its biggest shake-up for 20 years, with more than 200 staff losing their jobs and international ambitions curtailed.

Interestingly, comparison with Channel 4 - for many years the TV buyers' station of choice - is a valid one. Channel 4 laid off almost as many staff as Five employs and last year invested three times as much in its schedule. Despite this, Channel 4 only managed a 9.9 per cent share of impacts for individuals; Five took a 6.4 per cent share.

Five's share of all adult impacts rose by 15 per cent on 2001, while ITV suffered a decline of more than 10 per cent and Channel 4 remained flat. The non-terrestrial broadcasters also benefited from an increase in share of viewing - adult impacts rose by nearly 30 per cent - but these were not converted into improved shares of revenue on anything like Five's scale. In terms of revenue, while the total TV marketplace experienced a 4 per cent rise in ad revenue, Five managed to increase its revenue by a staggering 23 per cent.

Five's growth is easiest seen and most quantifiable in terms of its commercial success, but it has also innovated with new programming and a new on-air look. The station started the year as Channel 5 but, under the direction of its marketing director, David Pullan, who was poached from MTV in 2002, it changed its name and with the help of TBWA/London introduced a smart new on-air look in the autumn. As if to confirm that Five was now an established brand, the on-air logo was dropped while break flashes were introduced between commercials.

Investments in the schedule, most notably the acquisition of Home & Away from ITV and coverage of Party in the Park from ITV2, paid off as buyers were forced to realign their 2002 budgets. It continued to innovate with new programming, including Live With ... Chris Moyles, Michael Jackson's Face, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and The Shield.

Five has also invested in its movie output with Hollywood blockbusters such as the terrestrial premieres of Saving Private Ryan, The Matrix and Analyse This, and these have contributed to its continuing success. Indeed, Five is the only UK broadcaster with deals with every Hollywood studio.

While it is unlikely that 2003 will see audience increases anywhere in the order of those enjoyed in 2002, Five has set aside £159 million for the 2003 schedule and has already signed up Clive Anderson, Carol Smillie, Gaby Roslin and Terry Wogan for new shows. The investment in the 2002 schedule will pay off and Five can expect to enjoy further double-digit growth in revenue against a further torpid, and possibly worse, TV ad market.

Five will also benefit from new transmission frequencies in the south-east of England. Four new masts have already been agreed and four are in negotiation, which combined will add a further 1.1 million homes. Five, which launched with a reach of 65 per cent, will now be available in 85 per cent of UK homes.

While Airey's departure could be a blow to Five, with the Communications Bill becoming law Five should become one of the hottest media properties.

While Five was the undisputed champion in the TV market, Emap Performance's Kerrang! also earns a worthy mention in despatches. The title managed to increase its circulation by 60 per cent year on year to become the world's biggest-selling music magazine with an ABC of 83,988 and it impressed the media market with its investment in cross-media platforms and brand extensions. In November, 26-year-old Ashley Bird became the magazine's youngest editor.

Kerrang!-branded CDs, events, chatrooms, awards and SMS text messaging strengthened the magazine's relationship with its growing readership.

In 2002, Kerrang!'s interactive digital TV channel, launched the previous year, claimed 2.8 million viewers per month.

Recent winners: Glamour (2001); Metro (2000); Freeserve (1999); Daily Mail (1998); FHM (1997); Sky TV (1996).

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