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BBC Prime
CountryUnited Kingdom
Broadcast areaEurope, Middle East, Africa, South Asia and Asia Pacific
Picture format576i (4:3/16:9 SDTV)
Launched30 January 1995; 29 years ago (1995-01-30)
ReplacedBBC World Service Television
Closed11 November 2009; 14 years ago (2009-11-11)
Replaced byBBC Entertainment
(BBC Entertainment)

BBC Prime was the BBC's general entertainment TV channel in Europe, Middle East, Africa, South Asia and Asia Pacific from 30 January 1995 until 11 November 2009, when it was replaced by BBC Entertainment.


BBC Prime officially started at 7:00pm GMT on Thursday, 26 January 1995 when the former BBC World Service Television was officially opening to split into two separate television stations:

  • BBC World (since renamed BBC News): 24-hour English free-to-air terrestrial international news channel: news bulletins, information, business and financial news magazines and current affairs programmes on January 26.
  • BBC Prime (since replaced by BBC Entertainment): 24-hour English cable lifestyle, variety and entertainment channel: variety, culture, leisure, lifestyle, art and light entertainment programmes on January 30.[1]

The goal was part of a new BBC strategy for Europe, in which the former service was to be split and given over to European Channel Management, the joint-venture created with Pearson. The goal was to reach 10 million households in Europe by year-end 1995; the existing service reached 2.3 million households.[2] 75% of the output was drawn in from the BBC, while the remaining 25% came from Thames.[3][4]

On 4 March 1999, BBC Prime launched in sub-Saharan Africa, on the DStv platform.[5]


The channel broadcast drama, comedy and lifestyle programmes which it repeated on a monthly basis. Every day since the channel's 2000 rebrand, it allocated six hours per day to educational programmes from BBC Learning (shown in the European small hours, between 01:00 and 07:00 CET); this practice was abandoned on 23 July 2006 "with the intention of improving the relevance and appeal of the channel to the widest audience".[6] It also included a special children's strand, using the CBBC brand and idents, by the name of CBBC on BBC Prime, or CBBC Prime.

When it first launched, BBC Prime also carried programming from the former ITV company Thames Television, since BBC Worldwide had a joint venture with Thames's parent company, Pearson and Cox Communications, known as European Channel Management.[7] This was dissolved in 1998, when the BBC became the sole owner of the channel, as its sister service BBC World was struggling financially. Pearson and Cox, on their behalf, were heavily dissatisfied with the BBC's management ethos.[8]

BBC Prime explained their decision to schedule older programmes in addition to newer ones: "For the majority of our viewers, who are European and African nationals, this is the first chance to see these programmes, and often the only way to view them."[9]


Unlike the BBC's domestic channels, and some of their foreign channels paid for by the UK Foreign Office, BBC Prime was funded by subscription available either as part of a satellite package or as a stand-alone channel. It was also funded by adverts placed on the channel in breaks, and because of this, it was not available in the UK. Much of BBC Prime's programming was available to watch through BBC One, Two or the UKTV network, part owned by the BBC and showing archive programming.


BBC Prime's first ident consisted of five different diamonds shining, at first by each other, and then all of them, in a black background, with the BBC Prime logo placed in the bottom right corner. The logo at the time had the BBC logo, with "Prime" written in all capitals below in the Trajan Bold font. The ident had another version which had a jazz-styled music.

After the BBC went on its major rebrand, on 4 October 1997, BBC Prime rebranded for the first time. The logo now had the BBC blocks, with "Prime" in all capitals in the Gill Sans font next to it. The idents were designed by Martin Lambie-Nairn (along with the whole 1997 BBC branding) and start with epileptic water scenes with full of colours, before settling on the main part of the ident, which features the water in a blue to orange gradient with ripples and two marbles, reflected and inverted by each other. The logo is placed at the bottom.

On 4 December 2000, BBC Prime rebranded for the second time, also created by Lambie-Nairn. The idents were known as "Festival" and featured cartoon draws of famous UK sights, like the Big Ben, the Tower Bridge or the Stonehenge, shooting fireworks, followed by the looped, 15-second long sequence with exploding firework animations. The idents had a xylophone-and-trumpet music, with firework sounds playing in the background. Like the 1997 idents, the logo is placed at the bottom.[10]

BBC Prime's final rebrand took place on 23 July 2006 with BBC Learning's discontinuation. The logo featured the 1997 logo being placed inside a turquoise circle (although the 1997 logo remained in use as the DOG). The idents consisted of differently coloured circles as people who do different situations, like going on a rollercoaster, jumping and swimming in the pool, or the grass being clipped with a lawnmower. These idents were used until BBC Prime was completely replaced by BBC Entertainment on 11 November 2009.


The channel was available in many areas through satellite and cable television

In order to cater to a wider audience, who do not have English as their first language, BBC Prime carried subtitles in Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Czech, Polish, Romanian, Hungarian, Italian, Hebrew and Serbian. The Asian service also had subtitles in Chinese, Thai, and Korean.

A similar channel, called BBC Japan, launched in Japan on 1 December 2004, but ceased broadcasting on 30 April 2006 owing to problems with its local distributor.


In September 2006 it was announced that the BBC Prime brand was to be phased out and replaced by BBC Entertainment, one of a number of new international channels planned by BBC Worldwide.[12]

The process began with the Asian services, which switched on 6 October 2006, followed by the South African service on 1 September 2008.[13] BBC Prime was completely replaced by BBC Entertainment on 11 November 2009.[14]


  1. ^ "BBC World 1995". TVARK. Archived from the original on 18 March 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2011. Contains video of pre-launch caption, and of the simultaneous launch of BBC World and BBC Prime.
  2. ^ "Two new BBC channels for Europe, one to vie with CNN for viewers". The Straits Times. 21 January 1995.
  3. ^ "BBC, Pearson to launch 24-hour TV news channel to rival CNN". The Business Times. 25 January 1995.
  4. ^ "BBC embraces old enemy and ads in new world service". The Straits Times. 2 February 1995.
  5. ^ "Multichoice increases its stable", Africa Film & TV Magazine, nº. 21, May–July 1999
  6. ^ BBC Prime – faqs Why has BBC LEARNING ended?[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ From us to them; How the BBC became a world player, The Independent, 11 October 1997
  8. ^ BBC to buy out int'l partners, Variety, March 16, 1998
  9. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". BBC Prime. Archived from the original on 14 July 2001. Retrieved 18 April 2020.
  10. ^ "BBC Knowledge, BBC Prime and BBC Parliament at TV Home". 1 December 2001. Archived from the original on 1 December 2001. Retrieved 21 January 2022.
  11. ^ Handbook – Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, Secretariat, Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, 1997, page 59
  12. ^ Clarke, Steve (7 September 2006). "BBC Worldwide bows new channels". Variety. Retrieved 8 May 2008.
  13. ^ "Four BBC Worldwide channels for DStv". 11 June 2008. Retrieved 9 July 2008.
  14. ^ "BBC Prime rebranded as BBC Entertainment". Archived from the original on 26 September 2009. Retrieved 4 November 2009.

External links

This page was last edited on 13 February 2024, at 16:00
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