On Wednesday 16 September, the two leading UK broadcasters refreshed their channels to make them fit for modern audiences with varied tastes, shorter attention spans and fractured consumption habits.
Effectively, UK TV was immediately flooded with a surge of vibrant and creative idents that will brighten up TVs in the UK for the foreseeable future.
First came BBC Two’s rebrand in what appears to be a seamless, ridicule-free launch that was not quite afforded to the unveiling of BBC Three and CBBC’s new identities previously.
It unveiled a diverse selection of vibrant colours and moods. This dynamic new look represents the first time the branding has been meaningfully altered since the 90s.
Later in the day, Channel 4 rolled out an ambitious, company-wide rebrand set to make each of its channels distinct yet cohesive. This was a bigger job, new looks, feels and animated idents were dreamed up and rolled out for More4, Film4, 4Music, 4Seven and E4.
Owen Dowling, head of strategy at independent creative agency Leagas Delaney
Looking at BBC Two first (for once), the rebrand feels like it’s asserting a renewed core commitment to “lifting the brow” of content, with elegant but unpredictable lines over complex fluid shapes promising rich intellectual discoveries. It’s resisting what I imagine is being trotted out in consumer focus groups, that BBC Two is too ivory tower or cerebral for everyone. I say “good”.
If I have interpreted this correctly, and as I feel they’ve intended we’re all meant to, we can imagine a programming experience which will become more unapologetically sophisticated. Sir Patrick Stewart reading us Under Milk Wood in front of a roaring fire, or Melvyn Bragg as the little Dutch Boy saving us from a flood of superficiality.
By contrast, with its new idents, Channel 4 is committing to a more eclectic and challenging smorgasbord of entertainment options, loosening up its branding with a genuine swagger. Visceral at times, hilarious or arthouse at others, all-in-all it evokes a sense of restless curiosity and a promise to go wherever culture is headed, no matter how crazy, conceptual or ragamuffin it gets. I’m excited for the sense of renewed energy and anarchy in there.
I’m glad the two rebrands are happening at the same time. They give me hope that these two genuinely progressive channels will resist the “wind tunnel” effect of market forces that often soften the edges of a product and end up limiting consumer choice. As Oliver Cromwell famously said, ‘he who stops being better, stops being good’. Here’s to a positive broadening of the palette!
Neil Henderson, chief executive of independent creative agency St. Luke's
Byron Sharp reminds us that branding has a powerful effect in the world of broadcast.
Even as channels proliferate viewers keep returning to a relatively short set of favourite channel brands. So the role of a brand to keep people within the brand portfolio is critical.
The BBC Two rebrand appears to be focused on reasserting the distinctiveness of the channel versus BBC One. Sir David Attenborough recently said he couldn’t tell the difference between the two channels.
BBC Two is all about depth and substance across a wide spectrum of programming. The new identity asserts a new level of artistry which reflects this and works hard to drive a distinctive feel. It is beautiful, fun and captivating. It had big shoes to fill and it has done so successfully.
Channel 4 has always been an intriguing example of a brand with a powerful unifying philosophy, but that was expressing itself in very different ways for its different audiences and channels.
In pursuit of a distinctive personality for each of the sub-brands the master brand has until now been relegated. With Channel 4 needing to assert its presence with viewers, advertisers and the government, the master brand needs to be highly visible again. In any complex organisation, unifying a brand which offers multiple services to distinct audiences while also building specific appeal for each sub-brand is a real challenge; this is an example of a brand doing it well.
The different channel personalities we know and love are all still there, evolved and refreshed but still familiar. But now, each one feeds the iconic 4 of the master brand in a way that makes the viewer want to engage with it. As Netflix and Amazon march on, the need for every second of identity to work hard for the core brand becomes ever more important.
David Johnston, founder of design studio Accept & Proceed
It’s obviously tempting to compare the BBC Two and Channel 4 rebrands. But both identities have different jobs – Channel 4 is the network while BBC Two is part of a bigger brand – and I think they’re both successful in their own way. Channel 4’s rebrand has great energy and at the same time a sense of nostalgia.
It’s really smart the way the update makes you feel connected to the old brand with its consistency while refreshing it too – I think it will be a hit with its target audience.
BBC Two’s new brand is quite ravishing and sophisticated. So my heart loves it – while my head is saying ‘where’s the substance?’.
Yes, they’re showing diversity, which is really exciting, but is it just aesthetics over content? Time will tell.
Below is BBC Two's idents.
Following are some of Channel 4’s idents.