ITV2 is a British free-to-air television channel owned by ITV Digital Channels, a division of ITV plc. It was launched on 7 December 1998. For a number of years, it had the largest audience share after the five analog terrestrial stations, a claim now held by its sister service ITV3 both of which are freely available to a majority of households.
The channel is known for American programmings such as Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries; repeats of recently aired episodes of soap operas and another entertainment programming from ITV such as Coronation Street and Emmerdale; spin-off shows such as I'm a Celebrity: Extra Camp, and original programmings such as Celebrity Juice and Love Island.
Prior to the launch of Channel 4 in 1982, the name "ITV2" had sometimes been used to refer informally to an envisioned second commercial network in the UK. However, the name resurfaced in the late 1990s for very different reasons. The launch of digital terrestrial television services in the UK saw each existing analog terrestrial broadcaster given a slice of bandwidth with which to carry their existing service after analog switch-off with space left over for new channels.
Whilst strictly speaking this space belonged to each regional contractor for use within their own region, ITV had undergone a series of buy-outs earlier on in the decade; the three players operating the majority of the network, Granada, Carlton, and United News & Media, jointly launched ITV2 in 1998 to be broadcast to most of the country as a uniform service. Whilst free-to-air, it was marketed alongside its own subscription-based ONdigital platform. Other ITV licensees, SMG, UTV, and GMTV launched their own services in the space (see below).
While ITV2 is now a popular entertainment channel, at its launch in 1998 it was a mixed genre channel. Much of the original content in its launch schedule was current affairs related programming fronted by ITV newscasters. Katie Derham presented a weekly media program called Wide Angle, John Suchet fronted a weekly current affairs discussion program called Who, What, Why, and Trevor McDonald presented an interview series, Trevor McDonald Meets... Other programs included Midsomer Murders, Inspector Morse, Judge Judy, omnibus editions of ITV soaps Emmerdale and Coronation Street, and a Saturday football results service.
In June 2004, ITV plc announced that they were going to double the channel's program budget, and would add more American series and movies. On 1 November 2004, in an attempt to launch ITV3 on Sky, ITV2 moved from 175 to 118 on Sky after ITV plc bought GSkyB for £10 million. As a result, Plus was permanently closed down, with its EPG slot taken by ITV3.
ITV plc launched a one-hour timeshift channel of ITV2 on Monday, 30 October 2006. The company is looking to its digital channels to shore up revenues as the ITV Network suffers a decline in viewers. ITV3 +1 was launched on the same day.
ITV2 and its one-hour timeshift channel began broadcasting 24 hours a day on 17 March 2008.
From 11 January 2011, ITV2 +1 on the Freeview platform has changed its broadcasting hours to 7:00 pm until 4:00 am On 1 June 2011, an additional hour was added in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, allowing ITV2 +1 to start at 6:00 pm On 2 August 2011, ITV2 +1 began to broadcast 24 hours a day on Freeview across the UK, using an eleventh stream created on mux A.
As part of the changes, ITV2 +1 swapped slots on Sky's electronic program guide with Men & Motors, resulting in the timeshift channel making a significant jump from channel 184 to 131. It is now Sky 218.
GMTV2 programming moved from ITV2 to ITV4. The strand continues to be simulcast on the CITV channel.
On 20 August 2008, ITV2 unveiled a new look. The logo was given a 3D look, with three new idents.
ITV2 was launched on UPC Ireland in the Republic of Ireland on 4 January 2010, marking the first time the channel has been officially available in the country. The channel had already been (and remains) available to Irish viewers on free-to-air satellite for some time, however, it is still not listed in the Sky electronic program guide.
On 1 April 2011, ITV2 was removed from UPC Ireland along with ITV3 and ITV4 due to the expiry of a carriage agreement between UPC and ITV. UPC Ireland claims that ITV is not in a position to renegotiate the deal because ITV had struck a deal with another channel provider to provide it with exclusive rights to air certain content from the channels. Conversely, UPC Ireland also claims to have been in discussions right up to the last moment to continue broadcasting the channels. ITV2, ITV3, and ITV4 were restored to the UPC Ireland line-up on 20 December 2011.
TV3 and its sister channel 3e already hold carriage agreements to air certain ITV content within the Republic of Ireland, alternatively, UTV is available within the Republic. ITV2 is available along with ITV3 and ITV4 within Switzerland, all three channels are available on SwisscomTV and UPC Cablecom.
ITV2 was made available on Freeview in the Channel Islands on 29 February 2012, a few months after ITV plc bought Channel Television from Yattendon Group plc.