Please adjust your sets: The TV hit factory has arrived

After two decades in the shadows, UKTV is emerging as one of Britain's most successful broadcasters. Ian Burrell discovers why it's turning people on

Tony Jordan, one of Britain's best-known television drama writers and the creator of the BBC's Life on Mars, sent a signal to the industry this month when he decided to place the "passion project" of his career with UKTV, rather than a better known broadcaster.

Having secured the rights to Jordan's ambitious supernatural drama Legion – and committed to showing it in 10 one-hour episodes – UKTV has sounded a fanfare of its own with the announcement of record revenues of £262m and an operating profit of £71m.

More than 20 years after it was launched as a commercial subsidiary of the BBC, this unusual broadcasting animal seems finally to be finding its place in the British television landscape.

Apart from public service broadcasters, UKTV has the best-performing British channel in the male-skewed Dave, and the most-watched factual and lifestyle channels in Yesterday and Really. Its growth to 42 million viewers a month across its portfolio has been driven by the availability of new broadcasting services from BT Vision, TalkTalk and You View. Total audiences grew by 10 per cent across the UKTV network between 2011 and 2012.

The figures are encouraging for the American media company Scripps Networks Interactive, which bought its 50 per cent share of UKTV from Virgin Media in 2011. Scripps – which is known in the United States as a lifestyle media business and the owner of the HGTV (Home & Garden Television) cable and satellite network – owns UKTV in partnership with BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial arm.

"It's the first time we've done a financial release, said Darren Childs, chief executive of UKTV, in an interview with The Independent. "It is part of us becoming significant in size and building our reputation as a commissioner of content."

UKTV's portfolio is made up of 10 channels: Watch, Dave, Gold, Alibi, Eden, Yesterday, Really, Home, Good Food and Drama.

Mr Childs joined the broadcaster in 2010 from BBC Worldwide, where he was managing director of global TV networks. Having previously been known as a home for repeat programmes, UKTV last year began to reposition itself as an originator of content with a remake of the popular 1980s political satire Yes, Prime Minister. Although some critics complained that the show, starring David Haig and Henry Goodman, lacked the spite of modern politics, it formed part of a much bigger £110m investment programme that included The Comic Strip Presents: Five Go to Rehab, with Adrian Edmondson and Dawn French. You, Me and Them, a new sitcom starring Anthony Head and Lindsay Duncan, has been commissioned from Hat Trick Productions and will be shown next month.

Although Jordan's Legion is to be shown on UKTV's entertainment channel Watch, the broadcaster has launched a new channel, Drama, to showcase that genre.

Mr Childs, who has also worked at Sony Pictures Television, said it was essential to improve the output, as the previous growth it enjoyed from traditional television platforms begins to falter and advertising revenue stagnates. "For us to continue to grow we have to take market share; and to do that we have to persuade people to watch more of our content," he said. "That means it is a natural thing to think that by investing in content and putting as much money on screen as possible we can convert that into increased viewership – and that allows us to increase our share of the [advertising] pie."

But even if audiences have increased, Mr Childs faces a battle to convince the television production community to come to UKTV with its programme ideas, given its longstanding reputation for showing re-runs. "Sometimes it's easier to change the public's perception than it is to change the industry's perception," he admitted.

UKTV is also focusing on digital viewing, offering audiences greater opportunities to watch programmes outside the traditional linear schedule. "We have been investing heavily in digital inventory, to grow the digital ad revenue," he said. "There is growth in the digital side of the business and it's very important that we have invested significantly in our digital assets, such as our own view-on-demand player and the Dave app."

UKTV's channels

Free to air:

Dave: UK's biggest non-public service channel, with 26 million viewers a month

Yesterday: UK's biggest factual channel

Really: UK's biggest lifestyle channel

Drama: recently launched mixture of drama, factual and comedy re-runs

Pay TV:

Watch: Home of Dynamo: Magician Impossible, shown in 200 countries

Gold: Just screened new Yes, Prime Minister episodes

Alibi: US and UK crime drama series

Good Food: Masterchef, Nigel Slater and other cookery re-runs

Home: Interior design, DIY and home makeover shows

Eden: Niche factual programming, led by David Attenborough's Natural Curiosities

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Account Manager / Membership Manager

£35 - 38k + Benefits & Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Account Manager ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

Guru Careers: Associate Director

£50 - 80k: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Associate Director for the Markets ...

Guru Careers: Associate Director / Director of Sound Practices

£60 - 100k: Guru Careers: Our client is looking for an Associate Director of S...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks