Sunday, December 3, 2023


UKTV promotional image

“U” will be the name of a UK TV streaming platform from Summer 2024 replacing, well, UKTV Play. UKTV, owned by BBC Studios, runs channels whose own names were once thought bizarre, like Dave (predominantly comedy and factual shows), Yesterday (history), Alibi (detective dramas) and Eden (nature documentaries). 

But like their general entertainment channel “W”, formerly named “Watch”, the name “U” is about simplifying the name of the service while making it more distinctive. David Stevens, the Executive Strategy Director at Wolff Olins, the brand consultants that helped create the rebrand, said “the entertainment market is so awash with confusing and bizarrely named offers, so we wanted to strip back, reduce the noise and present this family of brands in a clear, crisp, singular way... We're excited about creating a bold brand that will stand out but won't get in the way.”

I can see what they are doing: ITV have done well by renaming their streaming service “ITVX” instead of “ITV+”, but it remains clear that, like the BBC iPlayer, it is an addition to their existing channels. Channel 4 renamed theirs to “Channel 4”, levelling it out, but UKTV are making it as clear as possible that “U” is the main service going forward: their regular, linear TV channels will be remade U&Dave, U&Yesterday and so on, even U&W. This is far away from the decision to name a channel “Dave” in 2007 because “everyone knows someone called Dave”, a frivolous brand decision in 2007, but more memorable than its previous name of UKTV G2. 

It will be months before I will see if this plan works, as renaming something as a single letter hasn’t worked well as of late. Twitter, renamed “X” in July 2023, is still referred to as “Twitter”, “X/Twitter” or “X, formerly Twitter”, mostly through convenience, but also because “X” is often also a mark of absence, or a placeholder until something better comes along – “X” has always been the name of these articles until I find a suitable title.

This thought also applies when single letters being used as codenames for people, a practice in British intelligence copied by the James Bond novels and films, collides with real-life uses of a letter as a person’s name to add distance to their previous identity: V, as the writer of “The Vagina Monologues” is known, is usually referred to in print as “V, formerly Eve Ensler”, just as everybody became used to saying “the artist formerly known as Prince”.

However, going back to more frivolous uses of one character, “3” was once the name of a British mobile phone company associating itself with the new 3G signal technology as it launched, but now lumbered with the association of old technology as these signals are faded back out.

The web address that UKTV may want to acquire for their rebrand is – formerly used by Ulster Television, known on screen as UTV, it currently redirects to parent company ITV’s website.

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