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UKTV announces creation of ‘U’

It's all change for UKTV Play


UKTV announces creation of ‘U’

UKTV today announced its intention to launch ‘U’ next year – a new master brand that will unite its family of free-to-air channels and its free streaming service.

Charlie Brooks aka Janine Butcher in EastEnders earlier this year launched the ‘U’ sex toy in collaboration with Ann Summers while viewers of ITV in Northern Ireland are served by UTV – launched as Ulster Television in the 1950s – and the UTV Live news service. But next year there will be a new U for UK viewers.

Launching in the Summer of 2024, UKTV will see its current streaming service UKTV Play transition to U and UKTV’s family of free-to-air channels will become U&Dave, U&DRAMA, U&YESTERDAY and U&W.

Penny Brough, UKTV’s Chief Marketing Officer:

“For 30 years, UKTV has had shows that people are passionate about – crime, drama, witty comedy and more – but until now it’s felt disconnected. We want to make sure our audiences can enjoy the full value of our free and wonderfully diverse offer, so we’re making it easier for them to navigate.

“U is the glue that enables us to do this: it means we go to market with a bold, simple and distinctive identity for our streaming service. U makes it easy for people to connect the dots between the streaming service and our family of TV channels – all while keeping hold of each channel’s unique personality and fame. This is now a family that’s fit for a digital future. It’s simple, but still full of personality because it’s all about U.”

A 2009 promo from UTV, the ‘U’ has been a big part of Northern Ireland ITV for decades.

The U streaming service, created in partnership with global brand consultancy Wolff Olins, will become home to thousands of hours of free content from a raft of genres, including drama such as Annika, Holby City, Madam Secretary, Sister Boniface Mysteries, A Million Little Things, comedy with Meet the Richardsons, Red Dwarf, Live at the Apollo, Mock the Week, We Are Not Alone and entertainment including Big Zuu’s Big Eats, David Mitchell’s Outsiders, QI, Mel Giedroyc: Unforgivable, World’s Most Dangerous Roads). There’s also factual entertainment featuring Stacey Dooley Sleeps Over, Masterchef Australia, Katie Piper: Jailhouse Mums, Secrets of the London Underground, Bangers & Cash.

U will also give viewers access to exclusive shows, award-winning originals, premiere acquisitions and iconic programmes from the BBC. It isn’t the first rebrand the UKTV networks have undergone. UK Gold, the original station from the network, is just one example. It was rebranded from UKGold to UKTV Gold and then in more recent years simply, Gold.

UKTV’s pay channels Alibi, Gold and Eden will transition to U&alibi, U&GOLD, U&eden at a later date, uniting the full network under the U brand.

David Stevens, Executive Strategy Director at Wolff Olins:

“The entertainment market is so awash with confusing and bizarrely named offers, so we wanted to strip back, reduce the noise and present this family of brands in a clear, crisp, singular way.

“The new ‘U’ name is a nod to UKTV’s heritage while emphasising that this new viewing experience is all about you. We’re excited about creating a bold brand that will stand out but won’t get in the way. We wanted to unite an eclectic portfolio, but hold onto the personality, and help you to lose yourself in what you love.” 

A new ‘U’ for television

UKTV has an ambitious growth strategy, focussed on supercharging its streaming service and growing its linear channels. A key driver of this is connecting and better leveraging the brands within UKTV’s estate.

The launch of this new master brand supports this strategy by making it easier for users to navigate both online and on-air, as well as creating a halo effect in brand marketing across the portfolio and ultimately building equity into a more unified family of brands. The simplicity of the new U brand architecture also retains the names and equity of the existing channel brands that are well-known and loved across the UK.

As part of the company’s transformation plans, UKTV Play has already evolved into a digital streaming destination with a plethora of free content to suit all tastes. Its popularity has propelled the service to grow views by 69% since the start of the year (Jan-Aug), and with FAST channels set to debut on the service in 2024, viewers have even more choice to look forward to.

The new U visual identity and brand architecture is set to be unveiled in 2024. Wolff Olins is working alongside UKTV’s own in-house Creative team on a suite of assets for the rebrand, which will simultaneously launch across UKTV’s free-to-air channels and its streaming service next year.

Vivian Summers, TV Critic:

“They just need to get Julian Simmons the old UTV continuity announcer to do the programme introductions and its really a reUnion of television”

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