UKTV started life small with the birth of UK Gold on 1 November 1992, backed by BBC Enterprises, Thames Television and Cox Enterprises. We delved into the archives of the BBC and Thames and cherry-picked the best programming so you could enjoy it again.
Thankfully you appreciated our efforts and the channel thrived. Now, over 20 years later, Gold (as it's known today) is still going strong and has become the place to go to for the cream of comedy entertainment. Brand new commissions, acquisitions and comedy classics - we've got it all.
But there's more to our story than just Gold. In 1997 Flextech bought shares in the business and the BBC passed its share to BBC Worldwide to create a 50:50 joint venture between the two companies. The partnership blossomed and November 1997 marked the inception of the UKTV network - we gave UK Gold some friends in the form of UK Arena, UK Style and UK Horizons. Soon after Dick Emery (no, not THAT Dick Emery but he does have an OBE) became our inaugural leader, or CEO, and the years whizzed by.
But before we skip ahead to the mid-noughties, our channel UK Play deserves a mention for being home to early appearances from a raft of stars including David Walliams, Matt Lucas and Russell Brand. The channel came to life in 1998 broadcasting a mix of music and comedy and it enjoyed a loyal following during its four year existence.
In 2005 our UKTV Style Gardens channel made headlines with a survey that found 1 in 10 British homes still owns a gnome. So we thought what better way to celebrate than provide a modern replacement for the garden stalwart. We commissioned three hand-crafted gnomes of Tony Blair, Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy that could withstand adverse weather conditions or any amount of mud-slinging - and they proved a hit. Our Tony Blair model was digging around for non-existent weapons of mass destruction, while our scary Michael Howard gnome, holding a 'Keep Out' sign, was perfect for those with an influx of snails and other garden beasties. And for more sedate gardens, there was a rather tired Scot sitting on a fence, supping from a glass of ginger beer!
Around the same time, Gold commissioned a team of respected astronomers, led by Dr. Mark Garlick, to study the stars - and what did they find? A brand new constellation shaped like grumpy Victor Meldrew from comedy classic One Foot In The Grave. The discovery made front page news and secured widespread coverage for our comedy channel.
The mid-noughties also witnessed the departure of Dick Emery, but we weren't left leaderless for long because Chief Operating Officer John Keeling stepped in as interim CEO until David Abraham took up the mantle in early 2007. David kicked things off by seeing in the launch of Dave on Freeview in one of the most successful marketing campaigns in TV history.
Yes that's right, Dave. Well, we do all know a Dave don't we? Satirical, edgy and 'the home of witty banter', Dave's personality was instantly apparent through its programming and branding, making an immediate connection with our viewers. We even created our own Dave room at UKTV so staff could feel at home. Themed like a gentlemen's club with flock wallpaper, leather armchairs and a suit of armour, it has proved a popular place over the years!
But we didn't just sit back, relax and put our feet up. The success of Dave gave us the inspiration to rebrand all of our channels, creating distinctive and vibrant propositions for each, clearly matching content with each channel's personality. So UKTV Gold, UKTV Drama, UKTV Documentary, UKTV People, UKTV History, UKTV Style and UKTV Food evolved to become G.O.L.D (now just Gold), Alibi, Eden, Blighty, Yesterday, Home and Good Food.
We also found time to launch some brand new ones too; our flagship entertainment channel Watch, and Really, a channel with unbelievable content that you really couldn't make up. We even managed to reunite the cast of Fawlty Towers for a special programme on Gold - Fawlty Towers: Re-opened. Luckily John Cleese, Andrew Sachs, Prunella Scales and Connie Booth were game for a laugh and enjoyed reminiscing about the show's enduring appeal 30 years on.
Our CEO David Abraham moved on to pastures new at the end of the noughties but we quickly welcomed Darren Childs as our new CEO in 2010. He moved over from BBC Worldwide and quickly earned his stripes with us when he successfully oversaw our changeover in shareholder from Virgin Media to Scripps Networks Interactive. Under his tenure we launched UKTV's on demand service UKTV Play, become Sky's greatest supplier of HD, broke UKTV's ratings records and launched the biggest show in Pay TV. We even created brand new channel Drama in Freeview, which coincided with the closure of niche Pay channel Blighty, and marked the momentous occasion by placing a giant statue of Pride & Prejudice's Mr Darcy in the Serpentine in Hyde Park. It certainly got people talking and the news quickly trended worldwide on Twitter. And if that wasn't enough, we evolved Watch into premium pay entertainment channel W.
In 2018, another change in ownership took place, with Discovery acquiring Scripps and thereby becoming UKTV's joint shareholder with BBC Studios. However, this changed again in June 2019 when BBC Studios took sole ownership of UKTV, and three of our channels, Really, Home and Good Food, moved to Discovery.
UKTV is now a family of seven exciting channels - Dave, Gold, W, Alibi, Yesterday, Eden and Drama - and on demand service UKTV Play. We've had huge breakout hits such as Dynamo: Magician Impossible on Watch (W's previous incarnation), where we filmed the amazing street magician walking on water, and we reunited comedy icons Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Adrian Edmondson and Peter Richardson in The Comic Strip Presents 'Five Go To Rehab'. We've also brought Red Dwarf back to Earth with a bang, unleashed the child in all of us with deliciously dark Crackanory, rebranded Dave to David in honour of the one and only Hasselhoff in Hoff the Record, kept you all laughing with BAFTA and Emmy- nominated Taskmaster, Judge Romesh, Death on the Tyne and Jon: Richardson Ultimate Worrier, and delved into the world of original scripted drama with Women on the Verge and Flack, starring Oscar winner Anna Paquin.
And our story doesn't end here. Marcus Arthur, BBC Studios President UK has become UKTV's new CEO and an exciting new era awaits.
Our channels are united within the UKTV family and are powered by the imagination and creativity of everyone who works here.