Top Up TV revamp enables Five's expansion

UK commercial channel Five is embarking on its multichannel strategy with the launch of two new digital channels. Five US will air imported series such as Law & Order and CSI; Five Life will target women with lifestyle shows and soaps. Five will broadcast the new channels on Freeview via capacity purchased from Top Up TV, the digital terrestrial pay-TV operator, which is changing its business model from broadcaster to video download operator via a new digital TV recorder.

Five CEO Jane Lighting said: "This is tremendously exciting and the most important development in Five's history since our launch nine years ago. We believe these two channels will play to our programming strengths, highlighting genres in which we have an acknowledged track record."

Five acquired a strategic stake in Top Up TV last year. Founded two years ago by former Sky executive David Chance, Top Up provided 11 channels including UKTV gold and the Cartoon Network for £7.99 per month.

The company recently underwent a corporate restructuring, and has now emerged with a new on-demand video service. Due to launch in the autumn the service, called Anytime, promises "a new simple and affordable way to add hundreds of extra programmes to your existing Freeview channels, via the new Top Up TV Anytime Digital TV recorder—giving you more choice over what you view and control over when you view it".

The service is expected to offer up to 80 hours of programmes on a digital TV recorder that is updated every night, leaving viewers space on the hard drive to record up to 20 hours of their own programmes. Among content likely to be available will be live English and Scottish Premier League football matches in conjunction with Irish sports rights holder Setanta.

Broadcast capacity freed up by moving to an on-demand model will be used by Five's new channels.

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