LONDON—“In TV, you need to be evolving all the time,” says UKTV’s Steve North, as he prepares for the re-launch of Watch, now to be called W. “The world around us is constantly changing.”

As the broadcaster prepares to unveil the channel’s rebrand, evolution will be the key word.

The aim is for the re-launched channel to be more attractive to aspirational women between 30 and 39 who want smart, uplifting entertainment and “high-quality escapism.”

The company’s biggest rebranding in years has been a long time coming. Months of painstaking research, a new slate of shows, a whole new look and feel: all are now ready to go, with the aim of getting the channel up to speed with the type of rapid change that North, W’s general manager, describes.

The first step, he says, was to talk to the viewers.

“We are constantly looking at the market and constantly looking at our viewers. We did a lot of research from the viewers’ point of view. We speak to our viewers all the time on all of our channels, which means that we can constantly research the market. We never standstill; if you standstill, you will only go backwards. You have to constantly push yourself.”

From a programming point of view, UKTV has spent the past six months sourcing new content that it hopes will leave its viewers feeling “satisfyingly energised.” The challenge was to keep its existing audiences happy with the type of content that they know works, and bring in some new shows to entice new viewers.

Cue a raft of new programmes, including a number of UKTV original productions. Making its debut on the channel is factual entertainment format Get Me To The Church, which challenges wedding parties to make it back from far-flung places in time to get hitched, and ON, a series of exclusive documentaries featuring celebrities Sara Cox, Grace Dent and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, exploring the ways in which technology has changed personal relationships.

There also will be a number of exclusives from the U.S., such as medical drama Code Black and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, starring Gary Sinise and Alana de la Garza. These will join existing Watch show Honey I Bought the House, all interspersed with same-day repeat and weekend omnibus showings of Eastenders.

It’s a mixed offering, but North says that throughout all the programmes runs a key theme, one that UKTV knows its viewers love.

“There is a very positive feeling to all the shows and everything we are doing,” he says. “The shows all have this thread, the sense of pushing people their barriers, people who don’t know what they can achieve. There is a lot of competition for these viewers and they have been very big changes in the market as a whole.”

With a bold, simple new logo worked up by UKTV and London-based design studio Art&Graft, and a raft of new design features for both on- and off-air uses, the relaunch is as much about setting a new tone and presence for the channel as it is enticing viewers with content.

“‘W’ is more focused and more clear all round,” says North. “It sends a much simpler message in an increasingly crowded market place. It makes people stop and listen.”

For Art&Graft, the challenge was to attract a predominantly female audience but at same time, creative director Mike Moloney explains, “sidestep overtly feminine design tropes.”

“Our aim was to create a strong, confident design system that reflects the modern personalities of this female demographic, while also being welcoming and appealing to wider audiences,” says Moloney. “We designed an authoritative, premium channel brand that audiences, especially women, can relate to, be inspired by and most importantly be entertained.”

With the launch imminent, the final, crucial stage of the process is to get the word out. With nine other channels to promote the relaunch, UKTV is in a strong position from the start. Off-screen, the broadcaster will be showing off the new logo and slick new designs as far-and-wide as it can with a host of cinema, terrestrial TV, broadcast, online and press promotions already underway.

“We will be using the media that are right for our audience,” says North. “We already have the capability of marketing to a huge audience of people to explain how they are already part of the UKTV family, and we will also be using that to recruit cinema and press. All media have a role to play.”


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