S2

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S2 was a youth-orientated digital television channel broadcast throughout the Scottish and Grampian ITV regions on cable and digital terrestrial (ONdigital) from 30 April 1999 to 27 July 2001.

Development

S2 was the second attempt by SMG's chairman, Gus Macdonald, to expand beyond the company's terrestrial analogue stations — a satellite venture with BSkyB, Sky Scottish, was disbanded the previous year.

The channel was to target 16 to 34 year-olds and include more style, music and youth programming than the analogue STV and Grampian TV. It had a budget of £2m youth-orientated digital channel

S2 was broadcast throughout the Scottish and Grampian ITV regions by SMG plc, the holder of the Scottish and Grampian region ITV franchises.

It was broadcast on the UK's digital terrestrial platform, ONdigital, and on cable television services NTL and Telewest.

Airtime sales were handled by Television Sales Scotland, the STV sales team based in Edinburgh.

Publicity campaign

At S2's press launch on 13 April 1999 the new channel was described as "brand new, fresh, young, lively and hip".

The launch of S2 was backed by an ad campaign created in-house with media buying by Feather Brooksbank. It ran in Scottish newspapers and style and listings magazines.[1]

Launch

On launch day, Friday 30 April 1999, more than 160,000 homes were able to tune-in to S2 either via cable or digital terrestrial.

The first programme, at 7pm, was S2 Live presented by Sarah Heaney.

Programming

At launch, S2 was on-air 10 hours a day between 4pm and 2am, seven days a week, with a target audience of 16 to 34 year-olds.

At the press launch on 13 April 1999, STV controller Scott Ferguson said: "Our research showed that younger people are put off by many of the traditional staples of mainstream TV. They don't like cookery shows, gardening programmes, quizzes, game shows. In addition, young men and women tend to like different types of sports."

However, despite the focus on more youth-based formats, STV's researchers were reportedly surprised to discover that young people were just as enthusiastic about traditional ITV drama serials; hence S2's decision to offer a weekly double helping of The Bill.[2]

Although the channel trumpeted its 400 hours of new Scottish production (a licence requirement was that 10 per cent of the programmes must be new), in reality that was mostly accounted for by just one nightly 30-minute entertainment show, S2 Live, hosted by 29 year-old former topless model Sarah Heaney. This flagship show, broadcast every night at 7pm, and repeated at 11.30pm, focused on Scottish and international showbiz, gossip, clubbing, music, fashion and internet news.

Heaney commented: "There isn't a programme like this for Scottish people. All they have is the London scene. There is a slight problem that there is only so much showbiz in Scotland but we will be meeting bands and actors who come to work here."

Defending the amount of Scottish input in the new station, Scott Ferguson told the Daily Record: "We have S2 Live and a new music show called Chartburn. And later there will be international pool and Scottish boxers fighting for British titles."

Another early Scottish programme was American football series Touchdown Scotland.

The channel also repeated drama and documentary programmes, originally shown on Scottish/Grampian. S2 also broadcast sports coverage, including Scottish rugby.

The daytime schedule, running from 4pm to 7pm, featured soaps, talk shows and lifestyle programming.

Criticism

Scottish tabloid newspapers including the Scottish Daily Mail attacked S2 for a relying heavily on repeats of soaps and dramas.

The Daily Record columnist Joan Burnie described it as a "tired old TV mix of the extremely tatty with the very tacky".[3]

The appointment of former topless model Sarah Heaney reportedly attracted criticism among STV colleagues as another example of the 'dumbing down' of television with experienced presenters gradually replaced by pretty young faces. Heaney's career to date had included topless modelling and working for the L!VE TV cable channel, home to topless darts and the infamous News Bunny.[4]

Demise

From the beginning of 2001, S2 was mostly re-broadcasting ITV2, losing nearly all of its Scottish programmes. It disguised the ITV2 DOG by covering it with an opaque S2 DOG, which had the effect of ruining many programmes by its dominance, often obscuring people's faces.

Although S2 initially had great ambitions for the station, it closed after little more than two years on 27 July 2001 as part of a deal with ITV Digital. The channel capacity was first replaced by the ITV Sport Channel and then ITV2.

References

  1. 'STV to launch digital service aimed at youthful audience', Media Week, 9 April 1999.
  2. 'Another chance for TV to capture the youth market', The Herald, 14 April 1999, 14.
  3. Joan Burnie, 'Switch off and do something less boring instead', Daily Record, 14 April 1999, 15.
  4. Scottish Daily Mail, 14 April 1999, 35.