Five mulls launch of new children's channel

Five, the broadcaster, is considering launching a specialist children's channel, after the breakdown of merger talks with Channel 4.

Five, the broadcaster, is considering launching a specialist children's channel, after the breakdown of merger talks with Channel 4.

It is thought that any new digital channel launch would form only part of five's strategy, which analysts believe will centre on an alternative merger, probably with the Flextech channels business owned by Telewest or with the satellite operator BSkyB.

Five has commissioned Nick Wilson, its head of children's programming, to study the feasibility of a digital station for the children's market. The station would build on five's established brand called Milkshake that targets the pre-schoolers in a morning slot on five.

Simon Terrington, the director of Human Resources, a consultancy, said: "For me, this feels like a natural move for five but it is hard to see what else they could do to build a large enough portfolio of digital channels. They would need a merger as well and that's really got to be with Flextech." Graham Lovelace, of the media consultancy Lovelacemedia, agreed that as a young broadcaster it would not be easy for five to start its own digital stations.

"Five doesn't go back far enough or deep enough into any particular niche to launch new channels using its own archive. But it does not have a great future in digital multi-channel television as a stand-alone.

"I still think its long-term future lies in a tie-up with BSkyB. That move would give Sky a natural terrestrial window from which it could promote its pay platform."

Analysts believe the children's station proposal - which is said to be at an early stage - is among "half a dozen" options that five is examining. The publicly owned Channel 4 and five, which is owned by United Business Media and Germany's RTL group, admitted last month that their merger talks had come to nothing.

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