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ITV to launch female-friendly channel showing TOWIE and Real Housewives

ITVBe will launch towards the end of the year on Freeview, Sky and Virgin

ITV is to launch a new channel later this year showing "female-focussed" programmes including The Only Way is Essex and US reality series Real Housewives.

The new channel, ITVBe, will broadcast lifestyle and reality TV programmes currently shown on sister channel ITV2.

ITV said the ad-funded new channel will be targeted at a younger, female audience, and will complement ITV2 despite taking a number of its popular shows.

The Only Way is Essex, more commonly known as TOWIE, has been a ratings hit for ITV2 and made household names of the cast members including Joey Essex, Mark Wright and Amy Childs.

Peter Fincham, ITV’s director of television, said: “We identified an opportunity to develop what is currently part of the ITV2 schedule- reality and non-scripted shows, which are very popular with young women and housewives with kids- into a distinctive channel proposition, aimed more squarely at that audience.

“ITV2 will continue to be the youngest channel in our portfolio, outside of CITV, and the strategy of bringing more scripted series, both acquired and commissioned, will continue apace, alongside panel shows, formats and other young-skewing commissions.”

The move follows ITV’s announcement at the end of last month to launch a pay-TV channel, called ITV Encore, which will showcase the “best of British drama”.

ITV’s other channels include ITV4, which aims to attract a predominantly male audience with its sports coverage and cult classics including The Professionals and Cheers.