US cable TV giant A+E Networks will launch its first free-to-air television channel in the UK next month — but admitted it is behind rivals who have “rushed” to market with similar strategies.
Blaze debuts on Freeview on September 20 and will showcase the best of A+E Networks’ content, including hit US series “Pawn Stars,” “Mountain Men,” and “American Restoration.”
A+E Networks UK general manager Heather Jones said she has been “campaigning” to launch the channel since she first interviewed for a job at the company three years ago.
During that time, she has seen Turner Broadcasting launch TruTV in August 2014, while Viacom got a UK free-to-air version of Spike live in April last year. Finally, Fox-owned YourTV debuted on Freeview in October 2015.
Asked if A+E Networks was late to the party, Jones told Business Insider: “Of course we would rather have launched five years ago, who wouldn’t? I can’t do anything about that. All I can do is launch it as well as physically possible.”
She added: “I didn’t want to have board approval and then go out there and rush it. Some of our competitors have rushed into free-to-air. I wanted to make sure we got the right deal on Freeview and that the content offering is properly thought through.
She said Blaze was the “missing piece” of the A+E Networks jigsaw in the UK, allowing the company to own its programming for its “whole lifecycle.”
The channel — which will be available on Freeview slot 83 — will be targeted at a broad audience, but will lean slightly towards men. A+E Networks research showed that female-skewing channels outnumber those aimed at men on Freeview.
The name Blaze came from a lengthy branding process, which initially involved input from five creative agencies. Jones said single syllable names worked well on Freeview and Blaze “defines the content” and has “positive energy.”
Another of her favourites during the branding process was Uncle, but it was decided that this might be too male-skewing and was too close to UKTV’s Freeview channel Dave.
Blaze will launch at 3 p.m. on September 20, broadcasting 24 hours a day. It will also be available online and on Sky, which is managing its advertising sales.