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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bravo and Channel One (Virgin) to close on Sky TV

BSkyB is to close Bravo and general entertainment station Channel One, putting more than 50 jobs at risk, as part of the integration of Living TV Group.

BSkyB has decided to focus on the Living TV channel portfolio, which will see a 25% boost to its programming budget, and the gameshow and quiz channel Challenge. According to media reports, Sky has decided to focus all of its attention on the Living TV channel portfolio and gameshow network Challenge.

Living TV Group, which is home to shows including Grey's Anatomy, Britain's Next Top Model and Sons of Anarchy, currently employs 110 staff. There will be just 58 roles after integration, but it is understood that there are a significant number of positions potentially available in other parts of the BSkyB operation.

BSkyB is understood to have decided to jettison Bravo, which launched as a cable channel in 1985, because it reaches a similar demographic to Sky1 but is not believed to have the same brand equity or reach.

BSkyB is backing Living TV because, outside of sport, it is second only to Sky1 in popularity among its basic pay-TV channels. BSkyB has failed to target the female market as successfully as Living TV, which has a two-year deal with Katie Price. Sky closed its own attempt to target a female audience, Sky Real Lives, earlier this year.

It was decided that Channel One, which was rebranded from Virgin 1 in August following BSkyB's acquisition of Living TV Group for £160m in July, was too similar to Sky3, which it sits alongside as a free-to-air channel on Freeview.

BSkyB intends to "redeploy" the channels' programming, with pay-TV shows moving to other Sky channels and free-to-air fare mostly moving to Sky3.

Bravo is home to shows including Spartacus, Dog the Bounty Hunter and Sons of Anarchy. Spin-off channel Bravo 2 will also disappear. BSkyB has not said what it intends to do with the channel slot.

Challenge will move free-to-air in Channel One's slot, which will effectively double its audience reach, as BSkyB looks to grow its presence in quizzes and gameshows. There are longer-term possibilities of tie-ups with Sky Bet.

Staff have been informed of the integration plans this afternoon with all staff, including the Living TV Group managing director, Jonathan Webb, under review.

The review has been carried out by Sophie Turner Laing, the managing director of entertainment, news and broadcast operations at BSkyB.

"Content is at the heart of Sky's strategy," she said. "Living is already one of the best pay-TV channels around and is obviously a great fit with our existing channels like Sky1. There is so much potential for further development and we intend to increase on-screen investment in Living by around a quarter as part of our expanded channel portfolio. This is a big part of our plans to bring customers great content from channel brands that really cut through."

BSkyB moved quickly to announce the integration of Living TV Group after being given final clearance by the Office of Fair Trading only yesterday.

The Living TV Group integration adds to what is expected to be a major revamp of BSkyB's entertainment programming after the broadcaster struck a five-year £150m deal for the exclusive UK rights to the entire HBO catalogue of shows including The Wire, True Blood and The Sopranos.

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