By Walker, James
The Independent Television Commission has invited applications for Channel 5. The licence is to be awarded later this year, and the station probably on air early in 1997. However, taking a look at the recent success of satellite and cable channels in the UK suggests a difficult future for Channel 5.
Multi-channel television viewers now account for 19% of adults. They appear surprised by just how much use they get out of the new technology, with 45% of satellite subscribers using satellite channels more than expected. Penetration of multi-channel TV varies very significantly by demographic groups. Homes receiving multi-channel TV are much more likely to contain children or young adults. It is, of course, among families that multi-channel television is most popular - 41% of adults in multi-channel households are in the family life-stage versus 19% of all adults. What kind of audience will this leave for Channel 5? Certainly not one necessarily attractive to advertisers.
By the time Channel 5 comes on air in 1997, over seven million homes (33%) in the UK are likely to be multi-channel subscribers (see chart, above). Looking at forecasts for multi-channel penetration in 2001 drawn from the Centre's Media Futures service, we predict that while 65% of urban homes will have subscribed to multi-channel television, penetration among rural homes will only have crept up to 15%. …