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E4 is a digital television channel in the United Kingdommarker and Republic of Irelandmarker, launched as a pay-TV companion to Channel 4 on 18 January 2001. The "E" stands for entertainment, and the channel is mainly aimed at the lucrative 15 - 35 age group. Programming includes US imports such as Friends, The O.C., Smallville, Veronica Mars, The Cleveland Show, The Sopranos, What About Brian?, Desperate Housewives, 90210, Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill, Scrubs, and British dramas such as Shameless, Hollyoaks, Skins, Nearly Famous and Misfits. Some of the imports, e.g. Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty are screened on E4 up to one week ahead of their Channel 4 broadcasts.

History

Channel 4 announced that the subscription channel would return to digital terrestrial television. From its launch until the closure of ITV Digital it was available as a bonus subscription channel. It became part of the Top Up TV subscription scheme until 27 May 2005, when the channel became available on Freeview, with the potential to increase advertising revenue by attracting a larger audience.

E4 was also available as part of the basic Sky Digital satellite subscription channel package, due to a long term contract with BSkyB it only became free-to-air in 2008. This change happened on 6 May 2008 and the channel joined Freesat alongside with More4.

In May 2005 E4 introduced "First Look", showing episodes of popular programmes such as Hollyoaks and drama series such as Lost and Invasion in advance of transmission on Channel 4.

Logo of E4+1
In October 2005 More4 was launched to complement Channel 4's digital channels. ER and The West Wing subsequently moved from E4 to More4.

E4 launched a Republic of Irelandmarker service in June 2002 which has become the second most popular non-terrestrial channel in Ireland with 1.1% of the audience; Sky1 is the most popular.[338613].

Since 2006 E4 has sponsored the E4 UdderBELLY venue (part of Underbelly) at the Edinburgh Fringe and Brighton Festival. The venue took the form of a giant upside cow in the purple colour of E4's logo.

In July 2007 it was announced Channel 4 would be launching E4 Radio, the first of a network of channels to be broadcast on DAB radio. The station was planned for launch in July 2008 and aimed at a similar demographic to its sister television channel, however this launch date was later delayed. In October 2008 Channel 4 announced it was abandoning its plans for digital radio, and thus scrapping the E4 Radio proposal.

E4 Music

In August 2005, following the close of that year's Big Brother, E4 introduced the E4 Music programming block. The slot initially ran through much of the morning/daytime schedule, though was later reduced to mornings only, with the amount of scripted comedy and drama screened in daytime increased.

Prior to the launch of E4 Music, E4 was off-air during daytime for much of the year, only going on air in daytime for rolling coverage of reality shows such as Big Brother. The introduction of E4 Music led to E4 broadcasting 24/7 all year round. Initially, E4 Music would take a summer break to allow Big Brother coverage to replace it, but in later years Big Brother coverage was reduced, allowing a cut-down E4 Music to run during the summer.

In 2008, the launch of 4Music as a channel led to questions being asked about the future of E4 Music. However, E4 retained its commitment to music content, stating that E4 Music had been commissioned to run until at least the start of Big Brother in 2009.

At 10am on Thursday 4 June 2009, the day before the launch of the 2009 Big Brother series, E4 Music ceased broadcasting.

Big Brother coverage

When the Big Brother reality show is being transmitted E4 devotes much of its schedule to live coverage from inside the Big Brother house; interactive features that give access to additional camera angles have also been transmitted. The channel also has Big Brother voting options, "Big Brother" spin off shows such as Big Brother Live, Big Brother's Little Brother, Big Brother's Big Mouth, Big Brother's Diary Room Uncut and Big Brother highlights repeats. Big Brother coverage is among the highest-rating programming on the channel, and comes at a time when most of the year's American imports have ended.

Promotions

E4 has become somewhat notorious for its strange promotion campaigns, initially narrated by the infamous ‘voice of E4’, the late Patrick Allen. Since Allen's death in 2006, the similar voice of Peter Dickson has been used. Trailers often make use of dry humour and phrases which, at first, do not appear to make any sense. Past examples include:
  • “Big shiny films in your dinky little home!”
  • "Coming To You, Straight into Your Telly Box"
  • “Second chance Sunday — not just a bunch of repeats, honest”


Programme trailers sometimes have the narrator repeating things that characters have said, such as, in a trailer for Ugly Betty that includes one character asking Betty "Why are you crying in the bathroom?", the narrator immediately asks "Why is Betty crying in the bathroom?!". And on another occasion he says "Oh No! Kerry Katona must be double booked." commenting on a cameo by Victoria Beckham. Sometimes the narrator appears to interact with the characters of the programme, especially notable in recent trailers for Miss Match and What About Brian.

Films are usually gently ridiculed in their promotion, such as with the voice of E4 telling viewers they "probably will" guess the ending of She's All That, naming actress Kim Cattrall as "That slaggy one from Sex and the City" when advertising Big Trouble in Little China, and re-dubbing a scene from Entrapment where the two characters are running along a rooftop before being caught in a helicopters' search light with "Catherine Zeta-Jones! This is the old man police!". There is also quite heavy use of British words which have generally fallen out of circulation, such as ‘ruddy’ and ‘gaff’.

Occasionally, the E4 narrator narrates trailers for shows on More4 (chiefly ex-E4 shows such as ER), ending with him being caught off guard that he's narrating for a "different" channel.

E4's continuity sends up the channel's Friends-reliant schedule - while in the past, announcements would generally be the same for example "Now it's time to relax with Friends", more recently the announcers have been more inventive with phrases such as "....after an episode of Friends we've shown so many times the tape's gone a bit wobbly" before a Series 1 episode which indeed had a distorted soundtrack. The "Next" DOG which runs towards the end of programmes on the channel parodies the schedule with phrases such as "Next: The One with Jennifer Aniston". Another example of using Friends to get ratings was via promotion for the sitcom The Class; the show was continuously billed as being from one of the creators of Friends, David Crane. When a late schedule change meant an edition of Big Brother's Big Mouth was moved to Channel 4 after a controversial incident in the Big Brother house, the E4 announcer, Dominic O'Shea said: "Instead, well, I dunno, we'll probably just show another Friends or something." There have only been a handful of days since the creation of E4 when Friends hasn't been shown, after the previous day's editions, the continuity announcers have been heard to say things like, 'Hell must have frozen over because there's no Friends on tomorrow.'

On one occasion when a playout-error caused part of an episode of Desperate Housewives to be repeated, O'Shea said, "I know we repeat ourselves a lot on E4 but that was of course a technical fault. Hopefully we'll have it fixed by the time it's repeated on Sunday,"[338614] playing on the fact that many of E4's imported American drama programmes are shown at least twice for each episode.

References

Further reading



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