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Controller of E4 Kevin Lygo
"If there's a gap in digital television, it's for a pure focused entertainment channel"
 real 28k

Friday, 19 January, 2001, 18:07 GMT
E4 and Sky claim laurels
Ali G
Ali G launched Channel 4's new entertainment network
Channel 4's new entertainment service E4 and Sky One are both claiming a ratings victory for E4's first night of broadcasting.

Using unofficial overnight figures, E4 is claims 563,000 viewers watched the first episode of the new series of Friends - making it the top-rated programme on any multi-channel service.

Gerry Bastable, Channel 4's managing director of pay-TV and digital services, said: "By any measure this is a stunning performance for a new channel.

Courntney Cox-Arquette and Jennifer Aniston
Courteney Cox-Arquette and Jennifer Aniston pulled viewers for E4
"To be matching the market leader blow for blow and even beating it in some time slots is an incredible achievement."

Using the same figures, Sky One is claiming the best viewing figures of the evening for Temptation Island.

The controversial US import which aims to test four unmarried couples' fidelity peaked at 557,000 viewers.

Mark Sharman, BSkyB director of broadcasting and production, said: "The success of Temptation Island has demonstrated Sky One's strength in broadcasting the most innovative and most talked about programming from the US."

Temptation Island is a runaway success in the US but it has attracted criticism for seeing the possible distruction of relationships as entertainment.

Battle

Sky has had the UK entertainment market to itself for 12 years, becoming the leading channel for downmarket, often American, entertainment programming.

An E4 spokesman pointed out that Sky One is available in far more multichannel homes than the new Channel 4 venture, making it "difficult to make like-for-like comparisons".

Sky is able to reach about 90% of all multi-channel homes, against 52% of homes for E4.

While E4's debut performance is impressive, Sky will fight hard to hold on to its audience share.

To supplement American imports E4 has pledged innovative and ground-breaking home-grown material.

The channel's 15-minute launch programme hosted by comic caricature Ali G, played by Sacha Baron Cohen, secured 280,000 viewers.

  • Sky's sister network in the US, Fox, has agreed to stop promoting Temptation Island during family programmes such as The Simpsons.

    The move comes after complaints from a member of the the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates US broadcasting.

    But in the UK, Sky said it had no such complaints.

    A spokesperson said: "We are currently not aware that there have been any complaints about the on-air promotion of the programme."

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    See also:

    18 Jan 01 | Entertainment
    E4 launches with US favourites
    18 Jan 01 | Entertainment
    Public consulted on BBC digital plans
    04 Jan 01 | Entertainment
    'Fairness' promised over BBC digital plans
    06 Aug 00 | Entertainment
    BBC3 and BBC4 planned
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