Channel 5 ended 2011 on a much more even keel than the previous year – but several key areas remain unsolved.
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A year ago the broadcaster was embroiled in disputes with suppliers over payment terms and budgets, and shocked the industry with a wide ranging senior management cull. But it went on to have a much less turbulent 2011 than that suggested, settling on a programming team and finding business terms that were more widely accepted.
Big Brother was the main event for C5 and while the regular format delivered a somewhat below par overnight average of 1.4m, the celebrity version doubled these figures and will be expected to repeat its success in a few weeks. A more traditional summer run for the regular version in 2012 may also see it achieve higher audience numbers.
Critically the production values of the opening series were strong and well received by fans who are likely to return, helped by ongoing coverage in C5 owner Northern & Shell’s print titles.
The real challenge remains for the broadcaster to convert these viewers into more regular viewers of the channel. The Bachelor performed solidly, but there remains room for further entertainment formats to launch around the Endemol series to build on its 16-34 year old audience.
Talent also remains an area C5 for potential growth with Amy Childs and Tamara Ecclestone leading an initial charge. The showbiz links via Northern & Shell’s celebrity magazine more faces are certain to emerge.
A wide variety of factual programming, including shows featuring the armed forces, has been an area of strength and a genre the channel will be expected to continue to mine.
Its relationship with regular supplier ITN (where former C5 stalwart Chris Shaw is ITN Productions editorial director ) has also been extended to include C5’s news bulletins which it will start to produce in February, taking over the contract from Sky News.
An immediate change has been the decision to scrap news magazine show OK! TV and when coupled with the closure of The Vanessa Show earlier this year, leaves C5 short of a regular topical programme, which it will be keen to address.
Mainstays such as kids strand Milkshake, soaps Home & Away and Neighbours and long runners including The Hotel Inspector, The Gadget Show continue to perform well, and sport is shaping up to play a more major role at the channel with an increased focus on boxing, through its coverage of the British heavyweight Tyson Fury’s fights.
The unexpected entry of Manchester Utd and Manchester City into the Europa League should bring bumper ratings – but any victory will be shortlived, with the channel opting not to bid to continue its three year deal into the 2012/13 season.
Commercially the broadcaster has performed well with revenues reportedly up by over 25% to £350m. It has also sought efficiencies from suppliers, as expected, but will need to strike a balance that ensures those savings do not impact negatively on the quality of its content.
If it can continue to sign cross-platform advertising deals and maintain audience share it remains on track for a solid if not spectacular 2012 – no mean feat given its rocky recent past.
Celebrity Big Brother / Big Brother
The wheels on the long-standing C4 juggernaut did not come off following its move to C5, but more viewers, particularly for the regular version would be welcome. The production values were spot on, so that is likely to hinge on effective casting and subsequent scandal.
The Bachelor (Ricochet)
No official word yet as to if the Warner Bros format will return but following a successful first spell it looks likely. The glossy format ticks all the right boxes to pick up an inherited audience from Big Brother.
5 News (ITN)
Changing news supplier is a significant step for the channel although the majority of the original production team will remain with the bulletins. How best to replace the axed magazine show, OK! TV which Sky News also produced, remains an interesting challenge.
Europa League / Boxing
Sport could prove to be a relatively easy win for C5 in 2012 with both Manchester clubs to appear in the Europa League this year. And as the only terrestrial channel which shows live boxing, C5 has the opportunity to carve itself out a real niche.