Five fallen 

24 May 2004 tbs.pm/2012

Channel Five has become ‘five’. Pete Davis isn’t thrilled.

Channel 5 launched in 1997, the fifth terrestrial network. Now, five years later, the channel has changed its name and logo. Why are they doing this, and is the new look any good?

Channel 5’s early diet of trashy American imports, B-movies and soft porn has lead to a less than enviable image for the channel, which it is keen to shake off.

Recently it has been improving its programming, with some well-chosen imports like ‘CSI’, and showing image raising (and cheap) arts programming in prime time. This rebranding is another step in the changes at ‘five’.

five endcap

The new name chosen for the channel isn’t exactly new or radical. The channel has been calling itself Five since the beginning, with the formal name rarely mentioned. It’s hardly a revolutionary change, and shows the channel doesn’t want to sever all links with its past.

They do claim that “Channel 5 was a name, ‘five’ is a brand”, which is a wonderful example of marketing nonsense. The change in name doesn’t really mean much, but it was probably sold to executives as a way to distance themselves with the past without breaking all links.

This may be true, but I can’t really see it doing much. I should note at this point I am referring to the channel as Five throughout, although the channel themselves prefer the grammatically incorrect five.

Logopolis

The Channel 5 logo, and the channel’s trademark colour bars, have been with the channel since the earliest test transmissions. They’d been tweaked as time went on, but until now there hasn’t been a major change.

The ‘5 in a circle’ logo was a classic logo. As a simple design it was easily identifiable at a quick glance, a must with any logo. It was adaptable to most situations, from teletext to the internet, as a ‘DOG’, and to the different styles of idents the channel used over the years.

The new one is, frankly, unimaginative, just another ‘name written in sans serif typeface’ idea. They have made a bit of an effort – it’s closely kerned and doesn’t have a dot over the ‘i’. That must’ve taken months of focus groups to decide upon, As a logo it’s underwhelming.

As a word, it doesn’t have the ‘at a glance’ identifiably of a symbol, and it just seems to disappear into the crowd of other ‘funny font’ logos that currently permeate British TV. I doubt it’ll be as adaptable, either, as it is far more complex than the previous logo.

five weather

Channel 5 had another symbol, their stylised colour bars. These had been used with the Channel 5 logo since the start. In places, most notably the break spacer, they were even used separately from there companion logo, effectively giving the channel two separate logos.

The bars live on in a way, as the colours have apparently been expanded into 5 separate palettes. These are used in a variety of parts of presentation, most notably used with the replacement for the bars main use as a break spacer. The colour bars were as much of a part of the old branding as the main logo, and could be used completely separate from the main logo, although this was rare.

This did give the channel even more flexibility for the use of there logo. Now the two parts are linked, and even then the colours aren’t used that often. The use of the colours is really just another slight link to the past.

Who identifies the identifiers?

Channel 5’s idents have been varied, from swish and stylish to self-parodying humour. Now they just seem boring. They consist of a section of film people unidentified people doing things, from swimming to driving about in a car. Films of people doing stuff don’t really work in my opinion, unless they’re really distinctive like the BBC One dance idents.

But these don’t have anything really distinctive, not even a jingle. Five does have a nifty logo animation, which is used for most cases where the logo needs to appear. But that’s about the only nice thing about the set. This is a real downturn, as Channel 5 had good, distinctive idents since its launch.

There are some short animations used into news, which do have a soundtrack, and consist of the Five logo appearing and disappearing in a similar style to the normal idents, but based on the new colour sets.

These are similar to various other presentational devices, including the now obligatory ‘coming up’ menu. These actually look quite nice, the main idents being the ones that let the package down. Another use of the colours is the break spacers, with a coloured five logo appearing on a black screen. This is the direct replacement for the colour bars break spacers.

The new effect is similar to the break bumpers Channel 4 used until this year. Channel 4’s old idents and presentation also used colours linked to the channels past, which, like Five’s new look, was used across most presentation (although Five doesn’t use them noticeably in the idents, unlike Channel 4).

This isn’t the only similarity with Channel 4. One of the key parts of Channel 4’s identity is the fixed position of the 4 logo, centred vertically but on the right of the screen. It is rarely seen in a different position, Five have imitated this, with the logo on the left instead of the right, with the logos actually being a similar height on screen.

Five don’t appear to be going for Channel 4’s rigid positioning though, as the logo also appears slightly smaller in the bottom left for some trailers.

The normal trailer style ends in a similar style to the Channel 4 ones, with the text appearing over the end of the trailer rather than a special end animation. Channel 5 uses larger text, which covers more of the screen, but the design does seem similar.

The five colours make an appearance, as the logo itself is in one of them. The alternative end boards aren’t seen often, and appear limited to the ‘special’ trailers. These usually don’t have clips of the programme, just words appearing with a voiceover. It’s an interesting gimmick, but that’s just it.

Apparently these will be used regularly to complement the normal trailer design, but I can’t see this idea lasting.

five film caption five film caption 2

A note about this new look is that production captions have changed. Channel 5 didn’t have a set look for their captions, but Five now has the production credit rather small to the right of the screen.

The rest of the screen is black, with a Five logo in one of the colours. This is in line with similar branding by Channel 4, except with more focus on the channel logo.

Closedown

In my opinion this isn’t a very good rebrand. The new logo just isn’t as good as the old one. For a channel that claims to want to build a brand for themselves, they’re certainly going about it in an interesting way by throwing away a brand they’ve worked hard to built up from scratch over the last five years.

The new idents are basically wallpaper to announce over, with nothing to grab attention. Compared to the packages the channel has had in its past, this is certainly the weakest, and definitely not the best set to launch a new logo with. The various presentational graphics are all right, including the news animations.

The influence of Channel 4 can be seen in the non-ident parts of the package. This isn’t bad, as there are worse channels to borrow ideas from, but some of the packages gives the impression that they changed the logo so it wouldn’t look quite as near to Channel 4.

I don’t think this look will be seen as anything much really, other than a disappointment. There have been far better and worse looks, but the best the channel can hope for is mediocre.

There are some good points, but the really awful idents and the needless change of logo outweigh them.

Your comment

Enter it below