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New Channels Enter Germany’s Competitive TV Market

By | May 8, 2002

      In a development that further increases the already large number of free-to-air TV channels targeting German viewers, several new TV stations have launched or are about to launch in Europe’s most competitive television market.

      Tele 5, a general entertainment channel, was the first new entrant, launching its service on April 28. It is operated by Tele Munchen Gruppe, the Munich-based media group headed by media entrepreneur Herbert Kloiber. Tele 5 broadcasts to DTH homes in analogue on Astra (19.2 degrees East) using transponder 23 (11.553 GHz H) and to cable homes in German regional states Bavaria and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. From next year, the Munich-based channel will also become available in digital on Astra.

      Besides gaining nationwide carriage on Germany’s cable network, Tele 5 also aims to become available to cable viewers in neighbouring countries Austria and Switzerland. The channel’s schedule consists of children’s programmes, general entertainment, music videos and movies. By profiting from the large analogue DTH base and the cable carriage, Tele 5 can be viewed in more than 50 percent of German TV homes. The channel aims to receive financing through income from advertisements and sponsoring.

      Another new channel based in Munich is set to launch to German DTH homes on May 15. Sonnenklar (which translates into “clear as daylight”) is a travel channel, which aims to finance through selling holiday arrangements to its viewers. The 24-hour channel will compete with existing German-language travel shopping channels Liberty TV and TV Travel Shop. Since May 1, Sonnenklar has been broadcasting a programme trailer on Astra (19.2 degrees East), transponder 84 (12.090 GHz V, SR 27.500, FEC 3/4), which gives the viewers a glimpse of what they can expect. The channel is operated by Euvia Media, the parent company of viewer interaction channel Neun Live. Euvia Media is owned by teleshopping TV group Hot Networks (48.6 percent), TV operator Pro Sieben SAT.1 Media (48.6 percent) and Neun Live’s managing director Christiane zu Salm (3.0 per cent).

      The TV channel Sonnenklar is an offshoot of the identically named travel shopping show on Neun Live. At first, the channel will consist of a four hour programme block which is repeated five times a day to generate a 24 hour transmission. Sonnenklar, which hopes to gain revenues of 100 million euros ($92 million) by the end of this year, expects to reach financial break-even in three years.

      Christians and viewers interested in biblical themes are the target group of Bibel TV. The Hamburg-based religious TV channel will launch on Oct. 1 in digital on Astra (19.2 degrees East). According to managing director Henning Rohl, the contract for the transponder capacity was recently signed with Astra operator SES in Betzdorf, Luxembourg. The playout and uplink will be handled by RTL Group’s transmission centre BCE. The channel’s 24 hour schedule will consist of biblical movies, readings and documentaries with entertainment elements such as a Bible quiz also on the agenda. Late night viewing will consist of music videos, for example gospel and Christian rock music from Germany and abroad.

      Bibel TV is backed by 15 shareholders with the non-profit foundation Rentrop Stiftung being the main shareholder (53 per cent). Protestant TV production company Eikon and its Catholic pendant Tellux jointly hold 25.5 per cent. The channel obtained a licence from Hamburg-based media authority Hamburgische Anstalt fur neue Medien (HAM) at the end of last year.

      Another channel which is due to become available to Germany’s digital DTH homes is MTV2 – The Pop Channel, the sister service of music channel MTV Germany. According to Katharina Behrends, head of MTV’s business affairs & distribution department, the encryption of MTV2 Pop’s digital satellite feed on Astra (19.2 degrees East) will be dropped. She declined to give a specific date for the move, giving ongoing negotiations as the reason. Since its launch on May 1, 2001, the channel, which replaced ill-fated VH-1 Germany, has been available free-to-air to analogue Astra DTH homes on transponder 15 (11.421 GHz H). The digital transmission within MTV’s digital package on transponder 118 (12.699 GHz V, SR 22.000, FEC 5/6), however, is encrypted in Cryptoworks – a paradoxical situation which many DTH viewers have criticised. According to Behrends, MTV2 Pop has proven to be an “extraordinary success” and will thus gain cable carriage in further networks. She said that the latest addition was regional state Baden-Wurttemberg in which MTV2 Pop will gradually be rolled out to analogue cable viewers in areas in which the networks have been upgraded to offer more space.

      Music lovers are also the target group of the Soundtrack Channel, a U.S.-based music broadcaster specialising in movie soundtracks. On the heels of its recent launch in Australia, Asia/Pacific and Brazil, the channel, which currently reaches 4.4 million households worldwide, plans to enter the European market in autumn. A joint-venture agreement was recently signed with Scandinavian media group MMG AB and its subsidiary NonStop Television to launch STC Europe. The channel will be distributed via satellite to Scandinavia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Germany with France and Spain to follow later this year.

      “We couldn’t have asked for a better European partner than NonStop,” said STC’s founder and president Bill Lee. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Ignas and C.G. Anderson at NonStop over the years and their knowledge and resources in this market are unsurpassed. They have the infrastructure to handle the channel’s day-to-day operations, as well as the expertise in channel distribution to help us expand.” Ignas Scheynius, president of MMG, added: “We strongly believe that STC Europe will be a great success throughout Europe. Not only are Europeans huge movie and music fans, but the film and record industries will find tremendous opportunities for cross-promoting their current and back catalogues via this channel. The combination of a built-in, universal fan base and content that lends itself to endless marketing possibilities will make this a must-carry for operators.”

      Jorn Krieger

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