Channel 4 has given the green light to a new TV channel, to be called 4seven, that will allow viewers to catch repeats of its most popular shows from this summer.
The new channel, which has been developed under the code name Project Shuffle, will allow viewers who missed the first live broadcast of Channel 4's most popular shows the opportunity to catch up with them over the next seven nights.
Channel 4 has secured a Freeview slot and distribution deals with Sky and Virgin Media, which had initially been wary of giving the channel the green light as it could provide competition to its own catch up services. No details on where 4seven will appear on electronic programming guides is currently being revealed by Channel 4.
The launch date for the new channel has not yet been confirmed. Channel 4 initially indicated to media agencies that it would like to have it running by 1 June, but it is now thought it will launch later in the summer.
Channel 4 is still in discussions with production companies to secure rights for shows to appear on the service.
David Abraham, the chief executive of Channel 4, revealed the thinking behind the 4seven as a bridge between the traditional way TV is watched and a truly converged digital experience when viewers will no longer be constrained by the linear schedule.
"With so much choice out there, viewers are increasingly saying they sometimes just miss the best stuff, despite their PVR and VOD," said Abraham, speaking at the FT Digital Media conference in London on Thursday. "4seven will give viewers more chances to catch the most popular and talked about Channel 4 shows from the last seven days."
He added: "It will schedule the main channel content that is creating noise – amongst social media, bloggers, commentators and of course via contact our viewers have directly with us – and incorporate this buzz into the look and feel of the channel."
The proposed channel will significantly help the broadcaster by offering more advertising inventory around popular shows to shore up the flagship Channel 4 network's audience share.
According to media buying agency sources, in 2011 the main Channel 4 network was down 9.6% year on year on commercial impacts among 16- to 34-year-olds – the demographic the broadcaster has built its reputation on and charges advertisers a premium to reach.
Channel 4 is forecasting that if the new channel gets the go ahead it will boost commercial impacts by about 7% to 10%, or around one percentage point of its overall share of commercial impacts.
Commercial impacts are the key currency by which an airtime sales team negotiates ad deals with media buying agencies on behalf of advertisers