At the end of March, two further +1 channels will close, as broadcasters nudge viewers to their catch-up streaming services.
Syfy+1 will close on Sky and Virgin Media next week, while Pick+1 will leave Sky and Freesat. It’s part of a gradual phasing out of +1 channels, which started when Sky last revamped its channel line-up. Channels including Sky Nature, Sky Documentaries and more recently Sky Max have launched without their own +1 channel. Other services, including Challenge, have since lost their timeshift channel.
The rise of streaming services providing catch-up, plus PVRs with larger hard disk sizes and more tuners to deal with scheduling clashes have helped to kill off the traditional +1 channel. And there’s more to come…
Later this year, Freeview is expected to also lose a number of +1 channels when a frequency block currently used for TV is re-farmed for 5G mobile services.
Even on satellite, cutting on +1 channels means transponder capacity can be saved to either create room for bandwidth-intensive HD and UHD services, or to reduce capacity altogether, saving money. ITV, when reorganising and reducing its satellite transponders last year, found no room for ITVBe+1 and axed it from Sky and Freesat.
No +1s on IPTV platforms
A new generation of internet based TV platforms have done away with all +1 channels altogether. There are no +1 channels on Sky Glass. Virgin’s forthcoming IPTV service currently also looks set to launch without +1 channels.
Sky, Channel 4 and Channel 5 have repackaged traditional timeshift TV into dedicated catch-up channels. The oldest, 4seven, turns 10 this summer. 5SELECT and Sky Replay follow the same concept of providing a home for time-delayed replays of programmes shown earlier in the day or week.
Freeview’s +1s that aren’t…
On Freeview, a significant proportion of +1 channels remain as placeholders, should broadcasters want to launch something else in their place, or trade the +1’s channel slot. A case in point is Monday’s launch of W on Freeview, when the channel takes over Dave Ja Vu’s slot on channel 25.
ITV3+1, ITV4+1, ITVBe+1, Blaze+1 and Yesterday+1 are all examples of placeholders. The channels only broadcast for a few hours each day. Some of these only come on air during early morning teleshopping strands. This means they are of no practical use for viewers.
+1 channels were originally of interest to commercial broadcasters, as they provided an opportunity to earn extra advertising revenue. They also helped increase ratings for shows that might have otherwise been affected by schedule clashes on rival channels.
But the proportion of viewers watching linear TV is falling. Longer catch-up TV windows means TV executives focusing on 30 day ratings rather than overnight figures. Online services allow for targeted advertising or extra income from ‘ad-free’ accounts.
Since the start of the pandemic, iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5 have all reported record audience usage, with a surge in numbers during 2020-21. And despite normality returning, there’s no sign of that trend reversing.
It seems only a matter of time before the largest broadcasters start shutting their +1 channels.
From Aidan Smith / Satellite TV reporter, RXTV