Channel 4 have unveiled changes to their entertainment and music channel line-up, including an E4 spin-off, and a return to full-time music programming for 4 Music. The changes will take place on the 29th June (2022).
In a press release later followed by promotion on E4, Channel 4 have unveiled an new spin off channel, E4 Extra. E4 Extra will sit alongside the current main E4 channel, and will largely broadcast re-runs of comedy and entertainment shows. This includes acquired programmes such as The Big Bang Theory and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, as well as Derry Girls and The Inbetweeners both produced originally for Channel 4. Legendary, the reality vogueing competition which explores ball culture in the USA, will also move to E4 Extra.
E4 Extra will actually replace 4 Music, currently available on terrestrial platorm Freeview (channel 31, 90% coverage on main transmitters only), cable platform Virgin Media (channel 337), and satellite platforms Sky and Freesat (channels 139 and 181 respectively). It is unclear what programmes E4 will be left with, but it would appear that E4 will focus on reality programmes such as Below Deck and Married at First Sight, as well as premiere showings of Hollyoaks.
4 Music itself will continue, and will in turn replace Box Hits, with the latter permanently closing.. 4 Music is currently a hybrid music and entertainment channel, but will revert to its original format of full time music videos. However, the channel will lose Freeview coverage, and will become available on satellite platforms Sky and Freesat (channels 354 and 501 respectively), and cable platform Virgin Media (channel 336).
The Box Plus portfolio (wholly owned by Channel 4), will reduce to the 5 channels (4 Music, The Box, Kerrang, Kiss, and Magic), although with the creation of E4 Extra the total number of Channel 4 owned channels remain unchanged.
Follow the return of Channel 4 HD and Box Plus Channels to Freesat, 4 Music has done the same. Due to the large proportion of entertainment programmes, 4 Music has been allocated a number in the general entertainment section and can now be found on channel number 181.
Technical changes needed to be made to facilitate the return. 4 Music was previously broadcast on a satellite transponder with a largely Europe wide beam. This led to the channel being encrypted, to protect the rights of broadcasters on continental Europe who show the same programmes as 4 Music. 4 Music has now moved to a transponder with a more restricted UK spotbeam, meaning that the encryption is no longer required. Following a brief period of testing, 4 Music has now been added to the Freesat EPG, a process which should be automatic for most viewers.
4 Music was last on Freesat in early 2018, when the channel was removed following a dispute over carriage fees between Freesat and Channel 4. Shortly after, all Box Plus Channels switched to a Europe wide transponder, and whilst most remained free-to-air, 4 Music became encrypted preventing that channel from being manually tuned in. Generic satellite box users will also now benefit from the return to Freesat, as the removal of encryption means the channel can now be viewed, although will need to be scanned in manually.
Back in February 2018, a dispute between Channel 4 and Freesat over fees for inclusion on the platform saw the removal of Channel 4 HD and the Box Plus network of music channels from the Freesat satellite platform. All except 4 Music remained free-to-air, meaning they could still be manually tuned into Fressat boxes. However, 4 Music became encrypted due to rights issues and a move to a transponder with a wider footprint beyond the UK. The other Box Plus music channels also moved transponder, but as there were no rights issues to overcome, they were able to remain free-to-air.
Fast forward to today, and structural changes at Freesat have led to this decision being broadly reversed. Freesat, which oversees the free-to-air satellite platform, has been merged with Freeview, which performs a similar role for UK terrestrial TV. Channel 4 held a shareholding in Freeview, and has now gained a similar shareholding in Freesat, creating a more favourable position for the broadcaster.
This has seen Channel 4 HD return to the Freesat EPG, along with The Box, Box Hits, Kerrang, Kiss, and Magic which form part of the Box Plus Network, which is wholly owned by Channel 4. 4 Music remains encrypted, so cannot be included for the time being, though this may change.
Channel 4 HD appears further down the on the EPG, as not all advertising regions are available for the channel, with the standard definition version remaining on channel no. 104. The new EPG numbers for the re-added services are in the table below.
||Freesat Channel No.
|Channel 4 HD
Channel 4’s disruption following Red Bee Media’s server failure appears to be over, with music channel Kerrang returning, and the restoration of accessibility services.
Although not directly observed, it has been reported by some outlets that Kerrang had previously returned to air shortly after the initial incident, using back up facilities. However, the service was then taken back off-air as part of efforts to restore other services. Kerrang was the last of the channels in the Channel 4 owned the Box Plus Network to return.
The restoration of accessibility services mean that viewers can now access subtitle and audio description services where they would normally be available.
No doubt work will be in progress in the background, to build more resilient backup facilities. The level of disruption caused has been less than ideal for Channel 4. As yet, Red Bee Media have yet to reveal the exact cause of the disruption, but it would appear that an issue with fire suppression equipment led to accidentle activation, damaging playout servers.
Music/entertainment channel 4 Music has now resumed normal programming following disruption caused by playout provider Red Bee Media.
With efforts having focused on the main Channel 4 services, the music based channels (including 4 Music) in the Box Plus Network were at a lower priority, and took longer to return.
The Box was the first of these channels to return, followed by Box Hits. 4 Music simulcast The Box as a temporary measure for a few weeks, following this with a shorter simulcast of Box Hits.
When 4 Music finally returned, it carried a full 24 hour service of music videos, instead of the hybrid music and entertainment format that the channel normally broadcasts.
This finally ended on Tuesday (9th November 2021), when the channel resumed normal broadcasts, with shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sabrina the Teenage Witch returning to the schedule. Rick and Morty, and The Goldbergs have also joined the schedule, with these having previously been shown on E4. In most cases, 4 Music are showing each series in order, starting with the very first episode of each.
In total 4 Music has faced around 7 weeks of disruption. It is understood that rock music channel Kerrang is still yet to return, and the launch of festive service Boxmas (which temporarily replaces Box Hits) is delayed. All other Box Plus Network channels have resumed broadcasts.
As Channel 4 starts to fully integrate the Box Plus Network into its main business, it has been confirmed that Box Upfront will not be returning.
Box Upfront had become Boxmas over the festive period. Boxmas will close on 8th January on Virgin Media, and 6am on 9th January on Sky. Adverts on E4 are currently running for a new Box Upfront show for 4Music, suggesting that the Box Upfront brand will continue in a revised form.
The move follows the closure of the Box Plus app, as content migrates to All4. The remaining Box Plus Network consists of 4Music, The Box, Box Hits, Kerrang TV, Kiss TV and Magic TV