TV4 is the largest commercial television channel in Sweden. It started broadcasting by satellite in 1990 and, since 1992, on the terrestrial network. In 1994, TV4 became the largest channel and remained so for a number of years. The two channels of Sveriges Television (SVT) lost more and more viewers for a couple of years. But after making schedule changes in 2001, SVT1 had practically the same numbers of viewers as TV4. Since 2004 TV4 has been a fully active member of the European Broadcasting Union.
TV4 was launched on September 15, 1990. The channel invested in an extensive news organisation and Swedish drama series. The premiere suffered from technical faults and the drama series weren't popular with critics.
In 1991, two of the channels oldest entertainment programmes premiered: the Swedish version of Jeopardy! and the Saturday night bingo show Bingolotto. Bingolotto in particular became highly popular. This year also saw TV4 awarded a license to broadcast terrestrially.
During the 1990s TV4 would broadcast several popular Friday night entertainment shows such as Fångarna på fortet (Swedish version of Fort Boyard), Kär och galen, Tur i kärlek, På rymmen, Sikta mot stjärnorna (Sound-mix Show), Stadskampen (Intervilles) and Småstjärnorna (Mini Playback Show).
In the early 1990s, TV4 decided to move their 7 o'clock evening news to 7.30 in order to compete with the most popular news programme, Rapport, which, at that time, was broadcast on SVT2. This failed and the news was subsequently moved to 6.30. In 2004, the evening news was moved to 7 o'clock, and the status quo reinstated.
In 2004, TV4 began transitioning to become a digital-only service, starting by shutting down its analogue satellite signal. On September 19, 2005, TV4 began shutting down analogue terrestrial transmissions, starting at the island of Gotland. The analogue shutoff was completed by October 2007. Since 2004, TV4 has been broadcasting a Swedish version of the internationally popular Pop Idol format.
News is an important part of TV4. It broadcasts the news program Nyheterna, (The News)) at 7pm & 10pm and Nyhetsmorgon (News Morning) in the mornings. Since 2005, it also screens two news updates during the day.
Friday nights have included family entertainment at 8pm since the early 1990s.
Bingolotto occupied Saturday evenings from 1991 to 2004. Then, TV4 moved Bingolotto to Sundays and started broadcasting feature films instead. With the start of Deal or No Deal in 2006, family entertainment returned to Saturday nights.
In 1994, TV4 broadcast the cult Australian prison drama Prisoner renamed "Kvinnofängelset". The show was a cult hit and was re-syndicated twice, showing each of the 692 episodes consecutively. TV4 has no plans to repeat the series a third time.
In 2003 after the surprise success of Kvinnofängelset, TV4 imported a new UK prison drama, Bad Girls. It failed with viewers, however, and broadcasts were discontinued after 2 seasons. TV4 has no plans for further broadcasts.
TV4 brought out many of the regional stations and became the sole owner of fifteen stations in 2001. The only independent station, TV4 Fyrstad, went bankrupt in 2003 and was replaced by TV4 Väst, owned and operated by TV4. TV4 later merged the stations into five regional companies and in 2004, a single company: TV4 Sverige AB.
As of 2008, these are the local TV4 stations:
After the closedown of the analogue transmitters and the termination of TV4's public service obligations, the pattern of the local stations is due to a major overhaul which will see the number of local stations increase.
Nonetheless, TV4 felt the urge to include advertising breaks. Therefore, it made several Inför programmes. The Inför programmes were short versions of TV4 programmes that were scheduled in the middle of programmes. For example, Fångarna på fortet would be divided into two parts and in between these, Inför Bingolotto would be shown. This allowed TV4 to broadcast advertising in the gaps between Inför Bingolotto and the two halves of Fångarna på fortet.
The Broadcasting Commission repeatedly ruled that the Inför programmes couldn't be considered as real programmes. In 2000 they were replaced by a programme called Dagens namn, in which the current namesday was mentioned. This was later on replaced by Om en bok in which famous people presented a book they enjoyed.
This ended in April 2002 when a new Radio and TV Law came into force, allowing TV4 to interrupt its programmes for advertising, but not to the same extent as TV3 and Kanal 5.
The Radio and TV Law also restricted the amount of advertising that can be shown to ten percent of the programming.
Since TV4 was the only commercial channel allowed to broadcast terrestrially, it had to pay a special fee to the government, consisting of a fixed fee and a variable element based on the amount of advertising that TV4 sells. TV4 worked to have this fee removed, especially with the launch of digital terrestrial television.
The new centre-right government intends to relax the advertising rules. TV4 would then broadcast up to twelve minutes of advertising (as opposed to the previous ten minutes in prime time and eight minutes during other time). The amount of advertising overall would also raise from ten percent to fifteen percent, giving TV4 the same rules as the UK-based broadcasters.
While showing the Nicolas Cage movie The Family Man on 24 November 2007, TV4 cut the movie prematurely for a commercial break only seconds from the climax of the movie. After the commercial break, the channel went on to show the next scheduled movie, Turn It Up, instead of the final part of The Family Man.