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By | September 26, 2001

      National Geographic Channel has just launched on the French Canal Satellite Numérique, following the signature with Canal Satellite in July. This brings the doc channel to a total of 134 countries in 21 languages following the addition of Canada, Greece and Russia in the last few weeks. Seven separate satellite signals are used to feed Europe.

      The version on Canal Satellite will be entirely in French, the aim being to make the channel as local as possible. “We intend ultimately to make all of our channels available in the local language,” said David Haslingden, President and CEO of National Geographic Channels International. The signals are transmitted from London. French activity is run by a Paris office, headed by Sophie Chalou (who came to NGC from Canal+.)

      Canal Satellite has exclusive satellite carriage for a period of five years; negotiations are under way with all the French cable companies and NGC already has its certificate from the CSA needed for carriage on cable.

      John O’Loan, Director-General, National Geographic Channels Europe, said that the channel is now almost four years old and has an estimated 27 million subscribers, a recruitment rate of half a million a month.

      The French channel will air 18 hours of programmes a day; the six hours of prime time programming are fresh each day, repeated twice in different time blocks a few days later, so each programme will be aired a total of three times. A number of co-productions with Canal+ will be undertaken.

      Thiery Schluck, Director-General of Canal Satellite, said that factual are the fourth largest driver of new subscriptions, after films, sport and children’s programmes. The channel is in the “Grand Spectacle” option, which comprises basic plus Disney, four film channels (three from Multithematiques plus TCM) and the Tiji pre-school channel, so is in keeping with Schluck’s statement earlier this year that no more channels for which Canal Satellite pays a fee would be added to basic.

      Haslingden said that the channel did not expect to be profitable for four or five years, “The competitive nature of the digital channel environment is reflected in our long term contract,” said Haslingden. “We expect the venture to be very profitable in the long term.”

      National Geographic Channel has a staff of about 380, with around 100 in London and offices in 19 countries. It is owned 25 per cent by National Geographic Television (which is part of the National Geographic Society), 50 per cent Fox and 25 per cent NBC.

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