Media: Analysis - A touch of gold from Fools and Horses

IN THE beginning was The Colditz Story, and frankly it wasn't much good at all. But six years ago this tale of studio-bound wartime resistance was a highlight on the cable and satellite channel UK Gold.

UK Gold was supposed to be a highlights channel, giving viewers another chance to savour the BBC's and Thames Television's finest hours. But the reality was rather different. UK Gold was limited by an agreement with the BBC to show nothing fresher than two years old, and a budget that seemed to let it buy almost nothing newer than 22 years old.

"Calling it UK Gold was considerably stretching a point," agrees Ian Lewis, head of programme evaluation at Zenith Media, the UK's largest media buying agency. "It wasn't above the UK Copper level.

But no more. These days UK Gold is on a roll, it seems. Confirmation of this comes from the Christmas viewing figures.

Christmas is a time when TV viewers traditionally turn away from the arriviste cable and satellite channels for a homely, tried-and-tested diet of Christmas specials and Pick of the Year shows.

However, last year during Christmas week the terrestrial channels registered a 2 per cent decline in viewing figures, while the whole of satellite and cable fell by 5 per cent. UK Gold, on the other hand, saw its Christmas week ratings rise by over 20 per cent. In fact a total of 6.5 million adults watched the station over the week.

The numbers are improving from a still-small base, of course - the top- rated show the channel has ever shown attracted just over half a million viewers. However, there is no doubt that this initially much-mocked station is now finding an audience.

More important is the fact that UK Gold is now the leading light in the BBC and Flextech joint venture UKTV, in the vanguard of the Beeb's ambitious passage into a new world of commercial satellite and digital television. It is, in fact, already the second most popular channel of all those available on cable and satellite, ahead of the sports and movie channels, ahead of the children's channels and behind only Sky One in terms of audience numbers. In addition its audience is among the most affluent of satellite TV viewers, something that has helped push up the station's advertising revenue by 25 per cent over the past 12 months.

"The biggest change happened last year, so that we have now got access to all BBC programmes, where before we had to wait two years after transmission," says UKTV's chief executive officer Dick Emery. "And, though the newer they are the more they cost us, it has meant that we can now show great programmes such as Only Fools and Horses and Men Behaving Badly."

In fact, so up-to-the-minute have UK Gold's offerings become that UKTV has paid it another compliment by launching a station called UK Gold Classics on digital satellite. This, as the name suggests, of course, is the rerun service for programming that has already been aired on UK Gold itself.

"We are now starting to think of ourselves as the sixth network," adds Emery. "We even launched a big advertising campaign before Christmas, and still only make a tiny operating profit, as we're pushing back revenues into better and better programmes."

For once viewers and advertisers seem to agree with the hype. "It's hard not say that the BBC has finally got it right with UK Gold," agrees Paul van Barthold, a director of the Media Business advertising group. "If you didn't think there was a place for a quality repeats channel in the multi-channel environment, just consider this. On the Electronic Programme Guide that viewers use to pick between their 200 digital channels on Sky Digital, UK Gold is one of the choices listed on the very front page, along with BBC1 and ITV and the other major players."

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas