The Universal Channel run by Universal Networks International (UNI) which also runs the successful programming polyglot of channel such as Studio Universal, E! Entertainment and Style on DStv is repositioning the brand as a TV channel where viewers will always find characters.
South Africa is one of the first countries in the world in a staggered roll-out of the brand-new Universal Channel rebranding exercise where the new look, logo and on-air imaging will be seen.
The Universal Channel brand refresh was developed in collaboration with NBCUniversal International Television's central marketing team, the award-winning creative division of Red Bee Media and the world-leading TV brand strategist Lee Hunt.
The Universal Channel is doing away with the interchangeable rainbow versions of the logo, settling for one, Blackberry coloured circular design and the channel name prominently balanced in the middle of a circle with a small "nick".
The new logo, on-air imaging and idents as well as upcoming print marketing material were shown to journalists, writers and TV critics today in Johannesburg and the new Universal Channel on-air look looks great. (If you can remember the 1980s Buck Rogers TV opening theme you will have a bit of an idea of how the new expanding concentric ring design is going to be used on air.)
"No other international TV channel has yet claimed the 'character' positioning, so we decided to use it for Universal Channel," says Colin McLeod, the managing director for emerging markets for UNI. He says the process borrowed a bit from the USA Network in America, a pay-TV channel which is part of the NBCUniversal stable where the slogan is "Characters welcome".
It was felt that slogan - although it was considered - isn't a perfect fit to apply internationally in the markets where the Universal Channel is carried, and it was amended to "100% Characters". The channel's brand refresh exercise will go into effect in South Africa on 3 May and will continue worldwide throughout 2013.
"We've stripped away a lot of the clutter for a beautiful new look." He said UNI has a simple vision for the Universal Channel to be a TV channel which viewers "want to watch with everyone, everywhere".
Already 80% of South African viewers say that the Universal Channel "is important to me" when asked to rate the channel which is seen in 103 countries worldwide in 16 different languages.
Colin McLeod said UNI has been and is thinking "long and hard" when it comes to the content on the Universal Channel.
"We need to excite the audience; we need to keep bringing the audience back in." He said "100% Characters doesn't always mean positive and good characters" (although the Universal Channel wouldn't carry a show such as The Sopranos) but that watching the characters on the Universal Channel will always leave the viewer feeling fulfilled and feeling better.
Key shows for the Universal Channel and which will be build on, include The Mentalist, Rookie Blue, Two and a Half Men, NCIS, Psych and NCIS: Los Angeles.
"We arrived at our unique positioning because we believe that great characters are the magnets that draw viewers back to their favourite shows - week after week," says Lee Raftery, the executive vice president for marketing at NBCUniversal International Television, in the press statement.
"Universal Channel's new logo, look and '100% Characters' tagline are simple and intuitive enabling us to connect with the hearts and minds of our audiences, everywhere, and maximise the potential of this global entertainment brand."