Channel 4 has today confirmed that it will launch its digital entertainment channel, E4, on the Freeview platform to coincide with the start of the sixth series of Big Brother at the end of May.
Big Brother fans in Freeview homes will be able to join those with satellite or cable in accessing live, round-the-clock streaming from the house, with E4 joining the free-to-air digital terrestrial TV platform for the first time.
Channel 4 will launch time-shifted channel, E4 +1, on Freeview, at the same time.
E4 will continue to transmit on satellite exclusively as part of the Sky Digital package, as a continuation of its existing carriage deal with BSkyB.
Carriage of E4 on cable will also be uninterrupted, but Channel 4 has served notice of its intention to withdraw E4 from the Top Up TV package being marketed as a pay-TV add on to the main free-to-air Freeview service.
Andy Duncan, Channel 4's Chief Executive said: "E4's launch on Freeview will make one of digital TV's ‘must-have' channels available to eight million new viewers. Freeview is still growing fast and we're forecasting an uplift in ratings and advertising revenues, which we expect to exceed lost subscription revenues. Alongside the launch of More4, taking E4 free-to-air is key to our strategy of extending our presence in multi-channel with a view to funding and strengthening our public service contribution in a fully digital world, across all platforms."
Dan Brooke, Controller of Digital Strategy at Channel 4, added: "We've always said we would take E4 free-to-air when this represented the best opportunity for its future development and growth. We're delighted to be continuing our relationship with Sky Digital, Britain's biggest digital TV platform, as well as joining its fastest growing one."
E4 launched on Sky Digital and cable in January 2001, with home-grown programme successes such as Banzai and Trigger Happy TV and quickly developed a reputation for bringing the best in US acquisitions to the UK, including Friends, ER, The Sopranos and The OC. In just four years on air E4 has established itself as the UK's second most watched digital channel among 16 to 34-year-old viewers (BARB, 12 months to 2004).
Notes to editors
1. In February this year, E4 announced an additional £20m investment in programming, bringing its annual programme budget to £60m.
2. E4 was available on DTT from its launch in January 2001 as part of the ITV Digital line-up, but came off the platform when it collapsed in 2002 and was replaced by Freeview. It has been part of the Top Up TV line-up from its launch in March 2004.
3. E4 is available on channel 163 on Sky Digital and channel 144 on both NTL Digital and Telewest Digital.
4. BSkyB will no longer be required to pay Channel 4 a subscription fee in return for selling E4 as part of its Sky Digital line-up.