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Viacom says Channel 5 to aim younger, challenge Channel 4 for ratings

Channel 5Channel 5 still has a “lot of room to grow” and will aim to challenge UK rival Channel 4 in terms of ratings while going after a younger audience demographic, according to Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman.

Speaking at a Broadcasting Press Guild event in London this morning, Dauman said that Viacom, which closed its £450 million buyout of Channel 5 just last month, will continue to invest in new programming for the terrestrial network and use its experience with youth brands like MTV to target new audiences.

“We do think there’s an opportunity to create programming that will bring the average age of the Channel 5 viewer down a bit from where it is today,” said Dauman.

“We think there’s an opportunity to target younger audiences on the Channel 5 group and that was one of the opportunities that we saw in looking at it. We think we’ll be able to drive that opportunity through new original programming.”

Asked whether he aimed for Channel 5 to be bigger than its UK terrestrial rival, Channel 4, in terms of ratings, Dauman said: “that’s the first step.”

“We do not put bounds on our ambitions, but we are also not arrogant about our ambitions. We know that it’s a very competitive business [and] we respect our competitors,” he said.

The Viacom chief said that today the firm’s UK networks spend more than £300 million a year in programming – close to half of which is on original UK programming across Viacom International Media Networks’ (VIMN’s) networks.

“That topline number will continue to grow and the UK commissioned part of it will grow faster. We think that’s the way to go in today’s world where our viewers want more fresh, original content,” said Dauman.

The CEO said Viacom has long viewed the UK as a “second home” and its Channel 5 acquisition proves it is a hub for its international expansion efforts.

However, Dauman described the acquisition of Channel 5 as a “unique opportunity” – not a sign Viacom is looking to buy more free-to-air networks elsewhere.

“We believe, having been involved in the media business for a long time, that this is one of the most exciting times ever. We are in a period of transformation. We have oriented our entire company to take advantage of what’s ahead,” said Dauman.

“Our objective is to continue to create great content, more of it, different kinds – long-form, short-form, and have great apps, great mobile content, and we’re very excited about what lies ahead.”

At the same time, Dauman announced that Viacom is set to launch its male-skewing Spike channel internationally for the first time, with rollout of a new free-to-air UK version of the network in spring next year.

The Channel 5 acquisition from Northern & Shell Media Group was the biggest deal Viacom has done since Dauman was appointed CEO in 2006.

Viacom first launched MTV in the UK in 1987, followed by Nickelodeon in 1992 and Comedy Central in 1995.