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The Growth of Digital Only TV Channels in the UK
In October 2002 Freeview was launched as a platform for free-to-air TV channels in the UK. It used the network already in place from the collapsed ITV Digital venture, but crucially this time only required the viewer to buy a digibox as a one-off purchase in order to view all available channels (excluding Top-Up TV and some Sports and Adult channels at various times later).
Since freeview has taken off with the UK public and become the only way to get free TV in many regions, it is now possible for many more channels to get larger ratings. It's also now possible for the main channels to get really poor ratings though that isn't what this page is about. This page was intended to be a weekly look at all the programs that achieved a million plus viewers (according to BARB) without being on the five terrestrial channels (BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, Channel 4 and Channel Five). Since BARB themselves had unbeknownst to me begun listing a top 30 listing for ‘other’ channels on its own site in 2008, this made my original concept for this page redundant. After much thinking about how I could continue this idea without being a direct weekly copy of Barbs own lists I have decided to instead list top 20s for every 6 month period to show the rise of the multi-channel world as opposed to the multi-channel monopoly Sky originally seemed to have in the late 90s in terms of viewing figures.  I will now be detailing exact figures even though they are already freely available on the BARB website, as I feel that in the context of a longer time period more accurate figures will better show up the trends

Typically the channels involved will be BBC3, ITV2, and E4. In some weeks the following may also appear, BBC4, ITV3, ITV4, Film4, More4, CBBC, Cbeebies, BBC News 24, Dave and Sky News. I will also list any channels that are only available via paid services, though typically this will only add Sky 1, Sky Premier/Movies 1, Sky Sports 1 and sometimes Sky Sports 2 to the list. I will also count HD versions of the terrestrials and plus one versions as being separate channels at this stage. If HD becomes the predominant version of the channel then I will at that stage drop it. If the main 5 channels share falls over the years to be equivalent to the other channels (five is already very low and BBC2 and Channel 4 are often not that high) then I may one day look at all channels.

The Top 20s now follow. I have preserved the original programme descriptions, abbreviations and spelling errors included, to stick to presenting the facts as they stand in BARBs data rather than giving my own guesses as to what was really meant or shown. I have given the exact date and time where this is shown in the original data, and when it isn’t I have only been able to indicate which week the figure occurred in, the main exception being Sky Sport’s Super Sunday’s which never show a date and time in the database but which I confidently assume to have been shown on the Sunday as a live prgramme and not to have been randomly repeated on another day. The viewing figures are in millions of viewers, e.g. 1.22 means 1220000 viewers (approx). I start from July 6th 1998, the Monday of the first week of data on Barb’s online database.

July to Dec 1998
20. Football Special   (Weds 9th Sept, 20:00, Sky Sports 1)   1.22
19. Football   (Tues 10th Nov, 19:45 Sky Sports 2)   1.25
18. Football   (Weds 2nd Dec, 19:45 Sky Sports 2)   1.26
17. Greece Uncovered   (10th to 16th Aug?? Sky One)    1.27
16. Greece Uncovered  (14th to 20th Sept?? Sky One)    1.29
15. Monday Night Footbal (Mon 23rd Nov, 1959, Sky Sports 1)   1.30
14. Greece Uncovered  (21st to 27th Sept?? Sky One)    1.32
11. Int Football   (31st Aug to 6th Sept?? Sky Sports 2)   1.39
11. Super Sunday Live  (Sun 29th Nov, Sky Sports 1)    1.39
11. Football Analysis  (Wed 16th Dec, 2148, Sky Sports 1)   1.39
10. Super Sunday Live  (Sun 20th Dec, Sky Sports 1)    1.40
09. Greece Uncovered  (17th to 23rd Aug, Sky One)    1.41
08. Super Sunday Live  (Sun 13th Dec, Sky Sports 1)    1.54
07. Super Sunday Live  (Sun 6th Dec, Sky Sports 1)    1.64
05. Football   (21st to 27th Sept?? Sky Sports 1)   1.75
05. Football Special  (Tue 29th Dec, 2000, Sky Sports 1)   1.75
04. F.A Cup   (28th Dec to 3rd Jan, Sky Sports 2)   1.83
03. Inter/Football Live  (Wed 18th Nov, 2000, Sky Sports 2)   1.85
02. Football   (28th Sept to 4th  Oct, Sky Sports 1)   1.86
01. Football Special  (Wed 16th Dec, 1959, Sky Sports 1)   1.95

Page Last Updated - 16/10/2012
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