Channel 4 to unify linear, video on-demand brand

The logo of Channel 4 in the United Kingdom
(Logo courtesy Channel 4 UK, Graphic by The Desk)

British broadcaster Channel 4 says it will re-organize its linear channels and on-demand services around the “Channel 4” brand identity.

The move means Channel 4’s video on-demand service is expected to drop the All 4 moniker, with Channel 4’s linear channels like E4 and More 4 following suit.

In a statement, Channel 4’s executives said the decision to rally around its traditional brand name is intended to “prioritize digital growth” as part of its long-term “Future 4” strategy.

“As Channel 4 turns 40, we’re responding to the challenge of an increasingly crowded content market by using our most powerful asset, the Channel 4 brand,” Zaid al-Qassab, Channel 4’s chief marketing executive, said this week.

Channel 4 was launched in the early 1980s as an alternative broadcaster to public-owned BBC and commercial ITV networks. The network was established as a way of providing counter-programming to what aired on BBC and ITV; as a result, it has generated a large, diverse audience, primarily comprised of younger viewers.

While Channel 4 is also publicly held, it generates no revenue from the British television license that is imposed on households with a TV set, in contrast to the BBC which is almost entirely funded through the license. Instead, Channel 4 generates revenue from commercials aired against its programming.

As digital and satellite television grew in adoption, British networks grew their presence by leveraging the extra bandwidth afforded by digital television to launch supplemental channels. Channel 4’s terrestrial and satellite sister networks include movie-centric Film 4, youth-oriented E4, documentary and lifestyle channel More 4 and the catch-up service 4 Seven.

Those channels will now adopt the Channel 4 name, but it wasn’t exactly clear how the network intends to differentiate each channel. The re-brand is expected to occur in the spring of 2023.

“We want to become the viewers’ North Star in the digital world: A valued curator to help them navigate to a destination full of entertaining and thoughtful content they know they can trust,” al-Qassab said.

The re-brand is taking place while Channel 4’s future as a publicly-held broadcaster remains up in the air. Despite pleas from some government officials to preserve the network’s original mission, the ruling party of the British government announced in April that it will move forward with plans to privatize Channel 4.

Officials in favor of privatization say Channel 4’s original mission of providing alternative programming to counter the BBC and ITV is being fulfilled by streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus, which makes it less necessary for that same strategy to be adopted by a publicly-held broadcast outlet.

Those who support keeping Channel 4 as it is argue that the network often makes bold bets on shows and specials that might otherwise not see the light of day. Last month, the network announced plans to launch a new program called “Art Trouble” that will see a British comedian destroying works of art created by problematic historical figures like Adolf Hitler and criminal Rolf Harris.

“Channel 4 provides competition to the BBC on what’s called public service broadcasting, the kinds of programs that are not commercially viable,” conservative lawmaker Jeremy Hunt said in a statement. “I think it’d be a shame to lose that.”