The station was branded as Five between 2002 and 2011, when it was owned by the RTL Group. Richard Desmond purchased the station from RTL on 23 July 2010, announcing plans to invest more money in programming and return to the name Channel 5 with immediate effect, and it was relaunched on 14 February 2011. On 1 May 2014 the channel was acquired by Viacom for £450 million (US$759 million).
Channel 5 is a general entertainment channel that shows both internally commissioned programmes such as Fifth Gear, Big Brother & Celebrity Big Brother, The Gadget Show, The Hotel Inspector, Can't Pay? We'll Take It Away! and Gibraltar: Britain in the Sun and foreign programmes. The station has been very successful with imports from the United States in particular, including the CSI franchise, the NCIS franchise, the first 3 series in the Law & Order franchise, Power Rangers, The Mentalist, Body of Proof, Once Upon a Time, Dallas and Under the Dome. In July 2014, Channel 5 announced plans to open up its production arm and allow it to create shows for other channels, following the new policies of the BBC and ITV Studios.
Channel 5 Broadcasting Limited was licensed by the UK Government in 1995 after a bidding process that started in 1993 and lasted throughout 1994. The initial round of bidders, which included a network of city-TV stations planned by Thames Television and the Italian politician and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi (who a few months later retired his offer), was rejected outright and the ITC contemplated not awarding the licence at all.
The difficulty with the project lay in use of television broadcast frequencies that had been allocated to RF outputs from domestic videocassette recorders. To achieve national coverage, large numbers of domestic video recorders (which output at a nearby frequency) had to be retuned or fitted with a filter, at the bidding company's expense.
The project was revived in mid-1994 when the ITC re-advertised the franchise. Tom McGrath, then-president of Time Warner International Broadcasting, put together a revised frequency plan with NTL and consulting engineer Ellis Griffiths, involving less retuning and greater signal coverage. Lord Hollick, then chief executive of Meridian Broadcasting (later United News & Media, and UBM) took up the project as lead investor as UK law prohibited Time Warner from owning more than 25%. Pearson Television, who by now owned original licence bidders Thames Television, also came on board. When McGrath left to become President of Paramount, Time Warner dropped out of the project and was replaced by CLT (known in the UK for Radio Luxembourg). Other bidders for the licence included UKTV (led by Canwest and Select TV which bid £36m for the licence, New Century Television (owned by BSkyB and Granada who bid £2m) Virgin TV (backed by Virgin Communications and Associated Newspapers who bid £22m, the same as Channel 5 Broadcasting who won the licence)