The channel's major drawbacks in its early years were the insensitive placement of commercial breaks in BBC shows, poor timekeeping, and the heavy-handed editing of BBC programmes to fit commercial timeslots. The channel joined Sky's basic subscription package in 1993.
Initially broadcast on an analogue transponder from a SES Astra satellite at 19.2°E which was not primarily intended for UK reception, the channel used to be notorious for being marred with 'sparklies' in large parts of the UK.
UK Gold's success led to the creation of UKTV (still part-owned by the BBC's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide) which operates several channels showing different types of archive programming. These included UK Arena (now defunct), UK Style (home and lifestyle), UK Drama, UK Play/PlayUK (music and comedy - now defunct), UK Horizons (now defunct) and UK History, as well as the time-shifted UK Gold +1, and UK Gold Classics, soon renamed to UK Gold 2. UK Gold 2 originally screened morning programmes from UK Gold time-shifted to the evening of the same day, but was relaunched with a completely new programme lineup and renamed UKG2 on 12 November 2003. Another channel, UK Living, was renamed LivingTV when it broke away from the joint BBC-Flextech ownership (now solely owned by Virgin Media Television).
On 8 March 2004 all of the UKTV channels changed their prefixes from UK to UKTV, and UK Horizons was split into two channels - UKTV Documentary and UKTV People.
UKTV still cuts programmes (mainly documentaries) for commercial timing on the UKTV's factual channels. The UKTV channels have broadcast in widescreen as of 31 January 2008, although some programmes made in 16:9 format are screened in the compromise 14:9 semi-letterbox ratio. These will be shown in 16:9 format later in 2008.
An analogue teletext service known as GoldText used to be available on this channel, but has since closed down.
The channel has been criticised by some, particularly in recent years, for featuring many recent programmes as opposed to 'classics' as was the original concept, with some shows appearing on the channel mere months or weeks after their first television broadcast.
UKTV Gold's then new look went live on 5 April 2007 - the same day that Jim'll Fix It Strikes Again premiered.
For the first few years, idents on UK Gold featured an animated dog mascot named "Goldie" posing with the UK Gold logo. Goldie was never name-checked as such on air, possibly owing to the death of the original Blue Peter dog Goldie some weeks before launch, although the late-night music video slot "Dog House" was originally listed as "Goldie's Video Bites" in initial pre-launch listings. The Goldie idents were kept until 1993 when they were replaced with a form-up of the first logo against a blue background. A re-branding in 1994 saw UK Gold adopt a more fitting identity: idents were based on the forging of gold bars, with the station's logo appearing to have been stamped into gold. Variations on this theme were used until 1997, when the channel received a revamp as part of the formation of the UKTV network.
The new network's corporate identity saw all its channels logos simplified to a boxed "UK" followed by the name (e.g. "Gold") in a simple sans serif font. The new network-wide ident theme would involve the splitting of the screen for different purposes. UK Gold's new idents depicted objects such as apples or leaves falling through the top half of the screen, with only the gold coloured ones reaching the bottom half of the screen. These idents were briefly adopted for UK Gold 2 when it launched in 2000. In 2000 the theme changed again, this time with idents featuring light beams and fireworks.
These channel idents were carried on through another network-wide re-branding of the logo in 2001, adopting a bolder font and merging UK into a single composite character. A range of live-action idents showing everyday activities from unusual perspectives appeared in 2002. From 2003 onward idents showed channel hopping viewers with their TV set "off stage" being brought to a halt by the appearance of a golden light accompanied by the channel's ident jingle. This new identity also featured a series of shifting yellow, orange and red blocks which suggested a gold bar at the centre of the screen.
On 4 April 2007, UKTV Gold unveiled a new on-air identity centred around a branded golden space hopper. playing to contemporary trends toward 1970s nostalgia, and emphasising the station's re-run content. 12 new live action idents featuring the branded space hopper began airing from 5 April 2007.
On 7 October 2008, following the rebranding, G.O.L.D.’s new ident presentation debuted.