Unwind with some telly and tea

UKTV wants to offer viewers the best of Britain
September 1, 2004


The second largest multi-channel broadcaster in the U.K., UKTV consists of nine channels: UKTV Documentary, UKTV People, UKTV Style, UKTV Food, UKTV Gold, UKTV G2, UKTV Drama, UKTV History and UKTV Bright Ideas. The last two channels are free-to-air.


Lifestyle programming (Food, Style, Bright Ideas) is primarily aimed at middle- to high-income females, ages 25 to 55.

Factual programming (Documentary, People, History) is mostly aimed at middle- to high-income males, ages 25 to 55.


Most of UKTV’s channels are available to about 10 million homes. History and Bright Ideas are in an additional two to three million homes.

Average audiences in peak time range from 41,000 for Bright Ideas, to 340,000 for Style.


Nick Betts,

Commercial director, programming


In a multi-channel environment dominated by U.S. content, Betts says UKTV is focused on Britain and British content. UKTV’s tag describes the channels as ‘rooted in the people, the humor, the lifestyle and the history’ of the U.K. ‘It’s TV to enjoy with a nice cup of tea.’

Need It

When it comes to UKTV Style, which has a commissioning budget of about £25,000 (US$46,000) per hour, Betts is looking for lifestyle programming with a contemporary feel. ‘The lifestyle market has moved on considerably in the U.K. over the last couple of years, and the shows are much more edgy. We’re also looking at extending into personal makeovers, life skills and property.’

As for factual (where some docs fetch commissioning budgets of up to £40,000 ($73,500) per-hour), Betts wants projects that reflect what’s going on in the U.K. today. ‘By and large, we’re looking for bigger events-led programming, which can create buzz in the press and is ‘must-see’ programming,’ he says. Betts cites Car of the Year as one such program. By London-based Attaboy, it profiles cars currently available in Britain and then lets viewers vote on the one they think is best.

‘Origination for us is becoming increasingly important,’ adds Betts. About 57% of UKTV Food’s output and 44% of UKTV Style’s output are now original commissions – and Betts says those figures will continue to grow across the lifestyle and factual channels. He stresses UKTV is open to new ideas from the production community and is looking for concepts that will build the channels’ brands.

Don’t Need It

Don’t pitch existing formats, such as traditional makeovers – Betts wants cutting edge with bite. ‘The idea that a team comes in, does up your living room, goes away, and then somebody comes in and says: ‘Ooh, that’s amazing’ – that’s gone. There needs to be something clever about it.’ For factual, UKTV is moving away from docusoaps – narrative, observational documentary series cut like a drama.

What’s On Now

Betts says Style, which is largely focused on homes and gardens, has found huge success in the Our House series by London-based Zenith. It’s a commissioned show where two separate properties are renovated from scratch over a number of weeks.

Dedicated to the indulgence of rich food (‘not just some fish fingers in a tub of tomato ketchup,’ says Betts), Food airs Good Food Live five days a week, 45 weeks a year. Produced by London-based Prospect Pictures, the 90-minute program is a combination of recipes and visits from celebrity guests.

On People, observational factual entertainment reigns, such as London-based Visual Voodoo’s Murder and Celebrity, about how the media turns killers into celebs. Bright Ideas combines 100% originated programming from most of the other UKTV channels. History and Documentary support acquired programs with in-house creations and commissions.

About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.