Five ramps up digital media plans

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LONDON -- The U.K.'s Five channel has expanded its digital media team and named its first digital controller as it ramps up its focus on online and VOD services.

Three senior producers also have been hired to oversee the rebuilding and relaunching of Five Web sites, including five.tv and several yet-unnamed sites likely to revolve around Five digital channels Five Life and Five US.

Chris Kerwin will take the new digital controller post, while Scott Jeffrey will become VOD editor, overseeing a revamp of the Five Download service.

Both Kerwin and Jeffrey come from outside the TV business, with Kerwin's background being in digital magazines -- including a stint as head of new media at BBC Magazines -- and Jeffrey coming from Adstream, an Australian digital advertising distribution company.

Five launched its VOD service online in late 2006 but has been rather slow in adding online services beyond the episodes of the "CSI" franchise and "Grey's Anatomy" available in a 14-day paid, VOD window on the current Five.tv Web site.

"The re-launch will have a significantly higher amount of content both paid and ad-funded, downloadable and streamed, and there will be community characteristics that will grow with time," Five strategy director Charles Constable said.

About six months ago, management signalled that the Web site team would be reformed under a new digital media group (DMG) headed by Jonathan Lewis, the former head of commercial development at Five. The new DMG will combine both digital sales, marketing and content under one umbrella.

Under a deal signed with independent producer representative PACT this past summer, Five gets the PPV and VOD rights to indie programs for 30 days on its U.K.-commissioned programs, plus series stacking and a 50% share of the revenue. But, similar to deals done with other U.K. channels, Five must inform the producer before the first terrestrial airing that it wants to exploit the VOD and PPV window or the rights can revert to the producer.
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