Ample new UK channels in waiting

By | January 16, 2002 | Feature

Last year was a tough one for niche broadcasters with many channels (Money Channel, Simply Money, Rapture, Carlton Taste, Wellbeing, dbc/u>direct, computer channel .tv) giving up after recognising that making money out of niche broadcasting is one of the toughest games in town. And it isn’t getting any easier, with plenty of channels being forced to trim costs back to the bone.

Among the channels rumoured to be extra cautious for 2002 are the Einstein Channel (already having cut back some European transmissions), Granada’s Breeze and Men & Motors, Irish channel Tara, CNBC (already having cut back staff and some of its European operations), ITN News, and the Leeds-based GOD religious channels. A high-profile UK-based Asian channel closed last year, and the fragmented ethnic sector is not immune from financial threat. While some broadcasters like CNBC have deep-pocketed parents and the religious stations can usually rely on financial support from viewers, others have to manage solely from ad-income.

The squeeze on ad-income suffered by broadcasters following September 11 placed further pressures on TV entrepreneurs. Indeed, a major report from investment bank ABN-Amro talks of the UK’s overall television sector suffering a further 1.8 percent fall in ad-sales this year on an already catastrophic 2001. In other words, a smaller cake is being sliced even thinner. But despite these challenges, and the almost total lack of subscriber income now on the table from platforms like BSkyB, there are seemingly plenty of channels seeking digital satellite or cable carriage in the UK.

For example, the long-planned NTL/BBC joint venture sports channel that relies on archive material is but one of a number of new channels that may come to air this summer. NTL’s Premium TV is reportedly thrashing out a deal with the BBC that calls for a scaled down version of the channel, although ESPN is also rumoured to be interested in launching its own Classic Sport channel provided it can strike a bargain to access BBC-owned rights.

Another sports channel rumoured to be in the offing is Kids Sports TV. Dog-racing service ‘gobarkingmad’ is relaunching as an unashamed betting service. An Arabic-language sports and entertainment channel from Abu Dhabi signed a contract with France Telecom’s Globecast last week. Globecast has done well in providing Eurobird carriage at 28.2 deg East for 17 TV or radio channels including Muslim TV, Ekushey TV (Bangladesh) and UCLanka. Globecast also feeds Abu Dhabi TV to North America via its proprietary World TV platform on Telstar 5.

The BBC have two children’s channels, CBBC and Cbeebies, slated to start transmission on February 11 and will relaunch their BBC Choice and BBC Knowledge into BBC3 and BBC4 this spring/summer. A soul music pay-per-play channel is being mooted, as is a gay channel (understood to be called Gaze TV) and at least one Pets Channel is being spoken about.

–Chris Forrester

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