Wolfe’s law of inverse channel launches says that the success of a channel is in direct disproportion to the amount spent of the launch party. Sir Richard Branson invited guests along to his Oxfordshire mansion to celebrate Monday’s arrival of Virgin 1, but maybe that for once Wolfe’s law is null and void.
When the test transmissions began early yesterday, with a countdown clock to the launch hour of 21.00, it became apparent the channel is more of a relaunch. Virgin has been parachuted into the EPG slots previously occupied by FTN, the channel launched by Virgin’s predecessor Flextech Television to provide a showcase of material taken from the group’s other channels, and a look at Virgin’s schedule suggests that much hasn’t changed.
The opening show, police procedural Criminal Minds, would be familiar to viewers of Living and there are other examples sprinkled around the schedule. Reruns of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, The Fresh Prince of Belair and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fill the gaps between the few new properties. At least one of the promos promises ‘no makeovers’.
These maybe are the tricks of a new channel. Key shows include The Riches, a US show but in Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver two British leads, and the ‘coming soon’ Terminator spin-off The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
This contemporary channel broadcasts in 4:3 and has an on-air look akin to E4 in red. The key is that in the past few weeks it has been given more media exposure than FTN ever got and that maybe is the point.