Broadcaster UKTV is to radically overhaul its Watch channel next month, introducing a new brand – W – and a slate of original peak-time dramas, documentaries and lifestyle programming.
Forthcoming highlights include ON, an authored documentary strand featuring films by radio DJ Sara Cox, musician Sophie Ellis-Bextor and journalist Grace Dent, plus Nev’s Indian Call Centre which follows larger-than-life boss Nev Wilshire from BBC Three’s The Call Centre as he embarks on the business opportunity of a lifetime.
The new W channel, which will replace Watch on Monday 15 February, will also air a same day repeat of BBC One’s EastEnders, effectively replacing the current BBC Three repeat when that channel moves online.
Adding the popular soap to its schedules could prove to be a significant ratings win for the channel as it regularly features in BBC Three’s weekly top ten of most watched shows.
W will also air popular US shows including medical drama Code Black, Criminal Minds spin-off Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders and cult hit, Grimm.
Steve North, W’s general manager, said, “We have a treasure trove of compelling original commissions, our own crown jewels. Plus the gold standard of US acquisitions, combined with the best shows from the BBC.
“We want to dazzle our viewers and have evolved and honed this entertainment channel, building a schedule that entertains but never patronises.”
The new channel is the first to be launched by the broadcaster since the arrival of Drama in 2013.
Figures recently released by BARB show that UKTV’s investment in original content has pulled in millions more viewers to its portfolio of channels, taking their combined audience share to 5.27% and placing them “neck and neck” with Sky’s and Channel 5’s bundles of channels for the first time.