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Will ITV Encore capture audience imagination?

Friday, January 31st 2014 by Cable.co.uk
ITV Encore launches this year - but will it succeed in attracting viewers?
New pay TV channel ITV Encore will debut on Sky this year.

ITV caused great excitement this week with the news that it's poised to launch its first new channel in eight years.

To be called ITV Encore, the station will - at least initially - be exclusively available on Sky TV, as well as across the satellite broadcaster's range of connected platforms. The launch is part of a wider four-year partnership with Sky that marks ITV's biggest ever tie-up with a platform operator.

Of course, ITV is hardly the first terrestrial broadcaster to take the leap and launch a new digital channel. In recent years, we've seen a spate of similar moves, such as Channel 4's decision to introduce 4seven - effectively a repeats service - on Freeview, Sky and Virgin Media back in summer 2012.

Some of these previous launches - 4seven being a case in point - haven't exactly set the world alight in terms of their popularity. After all, it's not particularly easy to gee yourself up over the prospect of a new channel that will exclusively show repeats.

Fortunately, ITV Encore will be a little different. Of course, viewers can probably still expect to see a fair few programmes that will also appear on ITV1, but the most interesting thing about the forthcoming channel is the promise of original commissions from high-profile writers, starring big-name actors and boasting impressive production values.

It's very early days for ITV Encore; the accompanying press announcement, for all its hype, doesn't give details of a launch date apart from stating the channel will appear "this year".

But the initial signs are certainly positive - and that's good news for ITV, which is no doubt desperately hoping to erase the memories of its last major pay TV venture, the ill-fated ITV Digital.

Having splashed £315 million on live football rights, ITV Digital - or ONdigital as it was previously known - plunged into financial trouble and ceased broadcasting in June 2002.

The lifespan of the service has been far surpassed by Johnny Vegas' double act with Monkey, who first appeared in adverts for ITV Digital. The broadcaster will hope ITV Encore's lasting legacy is rather more than a cuddly toy.

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