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New Channels Enter German TV market

By | July 17, 2002

      Despite being Europe’s most competitive television market, Germany continues to see new channels being launched targeting cable and satellite pay-TV viewers. According to Katharina Behrends, head of MTV Germany’s business affairs and distribution department, MTV Base will be made available to German cable households from this month. The channel, which targets the fans of rhythm and blues, soul and hip-hop, will form part of a new pay-TV platform Deutsche Telekom will launch on its cable networks. DigiKabel, as the offer is dubbed, replaces Telekom’s unsuccessful MediaVision platform.

      The cable headends are reached by using capacity rented by Telekom on Astra 3A (23.5 degrees East). Besides MTV Base, a number of other foreign channel providers aim to get a foothold in Germany’s television market through DigiKabel, among them women’s channel Club, and Avante, a sports, adventure and documentary channel targeting men. Both services are operated by UPCtv, the television subsidiary of Amsterdam-based pan-European cable operator UPC.

      Also onboard the new Telekom platform is travel channel Liberty TV; K-TV, a Catholic religious broadcaster from Austria; TW1, the travel, weather and sports channel operated by Austrian public broadcaster ORF and tourism group Sitour; UK-based entertainment channel BBC Prime; and Eurosport News, the sports news broadcaster operated by pan-European sports channel Eurosport.

      A further new addition to the TV channels available to German cable and satellite viewers is Heimatkanal, a pay-TV service showing German series and movies from the 1950s and 1960s as well as German Volksmusik. The channel, which targets older viewers, will be offered from Aug. 1 on the digital pay-TV platform Premiere in a bundle dubbed “GoldStar Extra” together with GoldStar TV, the music channel specialising in German Schlager. Both channels will be available to Premiere subscribers for an additional monthly fee of 3 euros.

      GoldStar TV and Heimatkanal, which received its broadcast licence last week from Hamburg’s local media authority Hamburgische Anstalt fur neue Medien, are operated by Gottfried Zmeck, the former head of Premiere’s predecessor DF1. Not only the digital pay-TV market, but also the free-to-air market continues to grow with RTL Shop, the German home-shopping channel operated by European media company RTL Group, having just added a digital feed on Astra (19.2 degrees East) to target the increasing number of digital direct-to-home (DTH) viewers in German-speaking Europe.

      The channel forms part of digital package RTL World on transponder 89 (12.188 GHz H, SR 27.500, FEC 3/4). RTL Shop was previously only available to analogue Astra homes using transponder 3 (11.244 GHz H). However, since the 13.3 million analogue DTH homes still vastly outnumber the 1.4 million digital DTH households in Germany, the broadcasters continue to seek ways to benefit from the strong analogue base.

      From Jan. 1, 2003, European cultural channel ARTE and KI.KA, the children’s channel operated by public broadcasters ARD and ZDF, will terminate their sharing agreement for an analogue transponder on Astra and move to separate transponders. Currently, KI.KA transmits during daytime hours on transponder 49 (10.714 GHz H) while ARTE takes over the slot at 19.00 CET. Both channels benefit from the decision: ARTE can offer its afternoon programmes, which are currently only available to digital viewers, to analogue homes, while KI.KA is able to extend its schedule into prime-time hours, enabling it to compete with commercial children’s channels not only during the day, but also in the evening.

      With the television choice available to German households constantly increasing, it comes as no surprise that broadcasters are trying to secure their presence in the market. NBC Europe, the English-language entertainment channel into which German computer channel Giga-TV is embedded as a daily programme window, aims to hold on to its almost nationwide analogue cable distribution by converting from a foreign to a domestic broadcaster.

      –Jorn Kreiger

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