E4 launch, the industry verdict


Staff member
Sep 24, 2012
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TalkTalk TV
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Worksop UK
E4, Channel 4's brave new channel for disaffected youth, launched amid a blaze of publicity.

Apart from the barmy Japanese-style game show Banzai and a few links from Ali G, the first night looked like a Warner Brothers channel - with two episodes of Friends and an hour of ER.

MediaGuardian.co.uk asked two esteemed advertising executives to give their verdict

Martin Smith, chief executive of Grey Worldwide

Mine is a very typical north London middle-class home. Once a year, a frisson of excitement disturbs the usual calm as information on a new series of Friends or ER sends all teenage, female members of my family into a frenzy.

Part of this behaviour is due to the programmes themselves. They're pretty good. Part is due to the sheer joy derived from there being, for once, something other than repeats to watch. So rare.

But more important than any of this, the excitement revolves around whether my kids will see these programmes first before their friends at school, ie before they're on Channel 4 a few weeks later.

Last year, therefore, Sky One was the all-important provider of satisfaction in the intensely competitive world of teeny oneupmanship. This year, it's God Bless E4. (You have no idea how many times in the last few weeks I have been asked by my daughters whether we can receive E4 as part of our cable package. Yes, Yes, YES!).

But is that really all it's about? In reviewing the launch day of this new channel, is there really nothing to say other than they got to transmit the new series of the old faithfuls first this year?

But what else is there to say? I suppose I had hoped that E4 could do for light entertainment programming what FilmFour did for the more serious stuff: become a major provider and creator of new shows. But on the evidence of Night One, I am not holding my breath.

Having said that, I am sure a lot of teenage girls have been made very happy by last night's offering. And anyway, in the words of E4's gangsta presenta, what do I know, Cos iz in da meeja, innit?

David Cuff, broadcast director, Initiative Media

The BBC talks genre-based channels, C4 just does it. Only 18 years old, yet they give birth to their second new channel. Have they laid another golden egg?

C4 scheduled Lost Gardens opposite E4, hoping younger fans would do the right thing. E4 is overtly trying to position itself as the best digital entertainment channel for youth.

This new C4 "variant" is broadcasting more of the mad, bad, studenty programmes that may now irritate the more mature C4 viewers such as the Japanese-style betting show, Banzai, in which viewers are asked to place bets on things like the weight of chef Nancy Lam's breast.

The schedule is bolstered by Friends, ER, Hollyoaks and Dawson's Creek - although ER doesn't fit into E4's youthful and trashy aesthetic. The previewed home-grown programmes are packed with attractive hopefuls trying to be sexy and humorous but strangely I was reminded of the Woodentops.

While E4 hopes for a halo effect from C4's current success with youth, C4 itself risks debasing its own currency with E4. Plus its digital first runs for Friends and others will grate with many viewers.

New TV channels rarely prosper with the personalities or schedules that they launch with but I still expect E4 to eventually earn its place in the portfolio of channel favourites for most youngsters in digital homes.