The Walt Disney Company's ESPN sports television
network is in discussions with European broadcasters
to launch its first live channel in the region after
securing a beachhead with the introduction of its
Classic Sports platform Russell Wolff, managing
director of ESPN International, told The Times that
"we have had discussions, and are in discussions, with
a variety of people" to launch a live 24-hour ESPN
channel in Europe. The talks come as ESPN launches
ESPN Classic Sports on Germany's Kabel Deutschland,
taking its total audience across the region to more
than 14 million households in 37 countries. ESPN is
also in talks with BSkyB to broadcast the channel,
which replays footage from past sporting events. The
global expansion of ESPN is part of a broader strategy
at Disney to leverage the strength of its television
assets outside the US. Since 1995 Disney has launched
25 TV channels in 68 countries. Wolff said that Europe
was the last major market around the world where ESPN
did not have a live channel.


Commercial broadcaster TV2's new channel Charlie
launched on October 1 with a slew of drama titles
acquired from BBC Worldwide. Aimed at the 40+ crowd,
the channel will be carrying a mix of recent and
classic BBC series, from Pride & Prejudice and
Ballykissangel to Cambridge Spies and all seasons of
Monarch of the Glen and Judge John Deed. Other titles
included in the deal are: The Cazelets, Daniel
Deronda, The Way We Live Now, When the Boat Comes,
Take a Girl Like You, Wives and Daughters and Madame
Bovary. The volume deal with BBCWW follows TV2
Charlie's earlier deal with Granada International for
titles including Hornblower, Kavanagh QC, The Vice,
Jeeves & Wooster, The Brief, Moll Flanders, Catherine
Cookson titles, Peak Practice, The Hunt and Brideshead
Revisited. The new channel sits alongside the recently
launched TV2 Zulu, which is targeted towards the youth


Calling it "a giant leap for television, a small step
in high heels," organisers on September 27 launched
France's first TV channel aimed at gay, lesbian and
transgender audiences. PinkTV was unveiled in Paris,
where organisers believe most of the channel's
audience will be located. France estimates its gay
population to be about 3.5 million people. Accessible
by subscription and available in France via cable and
satellite starting October 25, PinkTV follows in the
footsteps of Canada's PrideVision, and gay channels in
the U.K. and Italy. Offering a mix of currant affairs
shows, films, documentaries, music programming and TV
series like the Canadian-produced Queer as Folk, the
channel has no plans to be militant, organisers said.
Pink TV will offer a slew of shows imported from
Britain and the United States, where gay programming
has become firmly established in the past few years.
Programmes will include "Metrosexuality", "Queer as
Folk" and "French and Saunders" -- all in English with
French subtitles. Gay opera and ballet and
documentaries will also be screened, as will interview
shows, notably one hosted by one of France's leading
news presenters, Claire Chazal.


Playhouse Disney Channel and Toon Disney Channel are
set to launch in Germany on Kabel Deutschland’s new
digital program platform Kabel Digital Home on
November 10. Playhouse Disney will be the first
dedicated preschool channel for Germany, featuring
shows like New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Stanley
and Bear in the Big Blue House. It will broadcast
daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Toon Disney will operate
for 24 hours a day with a slate of animated titles
such Disney’s Recess and Disney’s Kim Possible. The
German launches follow the two channels' previous
debuts in the UK, France and Spain. Alongside the
Disney offerings, KDG's new rival to Premiere will
also carry E! Entertainment, BBC Prime, Fashion TV,
13th Street, AXN, Sci-Fi, Kinowelt, History Channel,
Nat Geo, Planet, Extreme Sports, ESPN Classic Sports,
Sailing Channel, NASN, Motors TV, MTV Hits, MTV Dance,
VH1 Classic, Trace TV and Playboy TV.

Germany’s first Farsi-language television station
“Mohajer International TV” has begun broadcasting a
24-hour test programme of music, dance, movies and
news. A spokesman said the digital station is
currently free to air on the Hotbird 6 satellite
system in Germany and hopes to broadcast to other
countries in Europe and the Middle East and eventually
Iran itself. He added that the station, in which a 50
per cent stake is held by Iranian businessman Hassan
Arpanahi, would like initially to reach the estimated
6,000 people from the Islamic Republic living in
Europe. He said the goal is to ultimately finance the
channel through advertising. Mohajer was given the
green light by German authorities to begin
broadcasting in July mainly because of its cultural
content, including programmes about music, the media,
film, lifestyle and cooking. It also has a documentary
show and news bulletins.

ESPN Classic Sport’s English-language channel is now
available on Kabel Deutschland (KDG) in Germany. ESPN
Classic Sport, which will be included in KDG’s new
digital home package, will transmit 24-hours a day,
seven days a week, offering German viewers a sporting
mix from Europe and around the world. It will also
feature a nightly two-hour German-language programming
block from 10pm, featuring some of Germany’s greatest
athletes and most famous sporting moments. ESPN
Classic Sport already has distribution among
multi-channel homes in France and Italy (88 per cent
and 100 per cent, respectively) via affiliates such as
CanalSatellite, TPS, NOOS, FTC, UPC and SKY Italia.
ESPN Classic Sport is also available as a three-hour
branded block to 5.9 million subscribers in an
additional 11 European countries. In total, ESPN
Classic Sport programming can be seen in more than 14
million households in 37 countries.

A US court has thrown out a suit by former German
media mogul Leo Kirch against US cable operator
Liberty Media and German bank Deutsche Bank for
allegedly conspiring to bring about the downfall of
Kirch's media empire in 2002, Deutsche Bank revealed.
Kirch had filed a 39-page complaint with a court in
New York in January, accusing Deutsche Bank and
Liberty Media and their chairmen of plotting the
destruction of the Kirch Group in a bid to rid Liberty
Media of an unwelcome rival in the German cable
television market and secure hefty commissions for
Deutsche Bank. The complaint alleged that Liberty
Media and its chairman John Malone and Deutsche Bank
and its former chairman Rolf Breuer "conspired to
undermine a deal Kirch was negotiating to bring his
privately-owned group public by 2004". But the court
found that Kirch had failed to prove his case and
"dismissed (the suit) for failure to state a claim,"
according to a copy of the ruling made available by
Deutsche Bank. The conflict dates back to comments
made by Deutsche Bank's then chairman Breuer made on
television in 2002, in which he publicly questioned
the creditworthiness of the Kirch group. Soon
afterwards, banks refused to lend Kirch any more money
and KirchMedia, the main pillar of the Kirch Group,
filed for insolvency in April 2002.

Playboy TV International has reached a deal to launch
on KDG’s Kabel Digital Home platform. Playboy TV will
air nightly from 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. Initially
available in English, the channel will add
German-dubbed programming over the course of its
rollout. The new platform launched on September 27.
Germany's Federal Cartel Office last week vetoed KDG's
plans to merge with three regional cable operators.
Operating cable services in 13 German states, with a
reach of more than 10m households, Munich-based KDG is
already Europe’s biggest cable operator.
Internet -

SES ASTRA and 1-2-3.TV have announced the launch of a
new concept in home shopping. On 1-2-3.TV, it is the
customers who decide the price of each product by
making an offer for each item by telephone. If that
offer is one of the highest received for the items
being presented, the purchase then takes place. The
new channel is available throughout Europe via ASTRA
19.2° East (transponder 47; downlink frequency
11170.75 MHz; horizontal polarisation) and in digital
(frequency 12.46050 GHz; horizontal polarisation,
symbol rate 27.5; FEC 3/4). In addition to managing
directors Dr. Andreas Büchelhofer and Henning
Schnepper, the company's shareholders include the
venture capital companies Wellington Partners, 3i,
Target Partners and Cuneo AG. 1-2-3.TV GmbH is hoping
to break even in its third financial year, by which
time it expects to have achieved approximately half a
million registered customers.

BBC Prime expands in Germany with KDGBBC Worldwide,
the commercial consumer arm of the BBC, and Kabel
Deutschland (KDG), Germany’s leading cable network,
have announced an agreement to provide carriage for
British entertainment channel, BBC Prime, across
Germany. BBC Prime has been selected by KDG for
inclusion in its new Kabel Digital HOME package,
launched this week in Munich, which heralds a major
push to drive digital uptake in Germany. BBC Prime is
broadcast to over 20 million subscribers across
Europe, the Middle East and Africa on cable and
satellite. This flagship British cable channel shows
the best of the BBC’s award-winning programmes from
drama, comedy, children’s, documentary, film, music,
lifestyle series and celebrity talkshows.


News Corp. on September 28 said that it agreed to buy
the 20 per cent of Sky Italia, the
satellite-television broadcaster that it does not
already own from Telecom Italia for €88 million. The
deal comes as News Corp., the media conglomerate
controlled by Rupert Murdoch and his family, seeks to
make Sky Italia break even next year. Telecom Italia
is selling non-core assets to meet its year-end target
of cutting its debt to below €30 billion. News Corp.
formed Sky Italia, Italy's only satellite TV provider,
last year after buying rival Tele+ from Vivendi
Universal and merging it with Stream, as News Corp.'s
satellite channel was called. Sky Italia has 2.7
million subscribers. Telecom Italia, which runs two TV
stations in Italy, was prevented from exercising
management control over Sky Italia because of
antitrust rules approving News Corp.'s purchase of


Dutch billionaire and media mogul John de Mol, through
his investment company Talpa Capital, has bought up
the rights to broadcast all six away games for the
Dutch team in the qualification rounds for the World
Cup in 2006. Talpa outbid Dutch broadcasters RTL
Netherlands, SBS Broadcasting and the Dutch public
broadcasters for the rights to the qualification
matches which all three other contenders said were too
expensive for them to take on. First broadcast of the
away games will be seen October 9, well before De
Mol's new venture is set to kick off. The six away
games for the Dutch team were said to have cost as
much as €900,000 per game. .

Cable operator Casema intends to add an additional 40
to 50 digital TV channels for free with the standard
analogue TV package as of January 1. With this offer,
Casema hopes to attract more customers to digital
television. At the moment, Casema has around 24,000
digital subscribers. In order to be able to watch the
free stations, customers will still need to buy a
digital receiver, which is available for between €100
and €200. Casema is aims for a penetration of digital
receivers of ten per cent by the end of 2005, and 80
per cent within five years. Casema is the third cable
operator in the Netherlands with 1.3 million


In a few months TP will offer its customers digital TV
and thus will enter direct competition with cable
television operators. According to local press
reports, the company might offer its services 20-30%
cheaper than currently offered by the largest cable
operators. "We might pitch our offer in Q2 2005, with
a test phase probably beginning early next year," said
Mariusz Gaca, director of the multimedia division of
TP. A key advantage the phone company will have is its
range, as it will be able to enter the homes of
broadband Internet subscribers.


Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corporation, wants to
expand his operations into Russian television, where
he plans to create a pay-for-view platform and produce
TV programs, Britain’s Sunday Telegraph quoted Marty
Pompadur, one of Murdoch’s aides, who is currently on
a fact-finding mission in Russia. “We are looking for
other investments,” Pompadur told the newspaper. “We
are looking to add to our radio and our outdoor
[advertising] holdings, and we are interested in
pay-TV and content.” The company is considering
satellite, cable and broadband Internet as ways of
creating a pay-TV platform in Russia. As Russian
Internet news resource reported, in
November 2003 Murdoch was considering the possibility
of buying part of the shares in the Russian satellite
television company NTV Plus but the negotiations
brought no positive results.


Media regulator Ofcom is proposing the introduction of
a new TV channel to broadcast public service
programmes in the UK. The new network could cost
around Ł300 million a year to run, the watchdog said.
Ofcom's ideas are set out in its second interim report
on public service broadcasting (PSB), with a final
review to be published at the end of the year. Channel
4 will be a "critical second provider" of public
service broadcasting alongside the BBC, Ofcom says.
Meanwhile ITV1 will be allowed to phase out its
regional non-news programmes, with some of those
responsibilities passing to the BBC. The BBC should
continue to be paid for through the licence fee "as
long as it retains broad public support" and
contributes to society. Ofcom says advertising and
direct government funding should be ruled out for the
BBC but says the nature of the TV licence fee could
change in the future. It suggests three "realistic"
ways to fund the new public service channel, as public
service broadcasting in general. Licence fee payers
could be charged an "enhanced" fee, taxpayers could
pay through a government grant or UK broadcasters
could be taxed on their turnover.

Kleeneze, the home shopping specialist, has announced
an investment of some Ł4 million over two years in a
joint venture TV shopping channel carried on Sky
Digital channel 664. The channel, which the group has
branded eezee TV, will broadcast as a pre-recorded
channel until March 2005. In March 2005 eezee TV will
be re-launched as a live channel with 16 hours live
programming and 8 hours pre-recorded programming
daily, giving a 24-hour a day service. Kleeneze said
that the expansion into television shopping presents
significant cross-promotional and cross-selling
opportunities for the group. The joint venture
partner, JML, is a well-established retail distributor
and producer of promotional videos and has broadcast
the pre-recorded shopping channel under the name JML
Direct since 2002.

ITV has inked a volume deal with Warner Bros
International Television Distribution. ITV has
acquired feature films from Warner Bros' 2003, 2004
and 2005 theatrical slates including titles like Harry
Potter sequels The Chamber of Secrets & The Prisoner
of Azkaban, plus Matrix spin-offs Reloaded and
Revolutions. Also in the mixed bag are Scooby Doo and
Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, The Last Samurai,
Troy, Ocean's 11 and the upcoming Ocean’s 12, The
Polar Express and Alexander. The deal includes library
titles like Unforgiven, The Fugitive, The Matrix,
Maverick, Lethal Weapon and Wild, Wild West. ITV3,
aimed at the over-35s, is due to start transmission on
November 1, airing UK reruns like Prime Suspect and
Cold Feet and US crime drama and feature films. US
drama imports already acquired for the network include
Crossing Jordan, LA Dragnet, Quincy and Karen Sisco.

BSkyB is hoping digital video recorder technology
might help resolve the problem of the subscriber
growth stall. Figures out on September 28 suggest that
1 million U.K. households will be plugged into DVR
technology within the next year. Some 400,000 of
BSkyB's 7.4 million subscribers have Sky Plus boxes,
and Sky hopes to increase this number to 2.5 million
by 2010. Despite Sky's marketing push, however,
consumers are confused about the benefits of DVRs,
which allow viewers to record programs onto a hard
disc. According to Continental Research, less than
four in 10 people understand what DVRs are, with
awareness highest among young men in Sky Digital
homes. Meanwhile, Sky launched a new service enabling
Sky Plus boxes to record interactive programs.

BSkyB unveiled its biggest advertising campaign in six
years on September 30 as it seeks to reverse slowing
subscriber growth and wrest back the initiative from
Freeview. John Florsheim, managing director of sales
and marketing at BSkyB, admitted previous advertising
campaigns had not won over the 11 million terrestrial
viewers in Britain. Freeview watchers and families
with nursery-age children - a prime BSkyB customer -
will be among the groups targeted by a three-month
push. The advertising blitz follows a strategic shift
ordered by James Murdoch, the chief executive, which
included raising the annual marketing budget by 50% to
Ł75 million. BSkyB is chasing subscriber targets of 8
million by next year and 10 million by 2010 amid a
marked slowdown in the growth of customer numbers.
BSkyB dominates the pay-TV market with 7.4 million
subscribers, with 90% of new customers buying top-tier
deals costing Ł39 to Ł41 per month. The group is now
targeting potential customers with cheaper packages,
previously a low priority. BSkyB added 66,000
customers in the first three months of 2004, but
disappointed the market when it gained 81,000
subscribers in the second quarter against expectations
of 100,000 to 130,000.

The BBC has completed the procurement for a 10-year
Technology Framework Contract (TFC) with Siemens
Business Services worth almost Ł2 billion. As part of
the landmark deal, Siemens Business Services has
acquired BBC Technology, a commercial subsidiary of
the BBC. BBC Technology will be renamed Siemens
Business Services Media Holdings. The BBC has received
approval for the sale from the Secretary of State for
Culture, Media and Sport and approval from the BBC
Governors for both the procurement and the sale. The
two-part deal covering both contract and acquisition –
the first of its kind in the media industry – means
Siemens Business Services will work closely with BBC
Technology Direction, the department responsible for
the BBC’s technology strategy and development, to
deliver the BBC’s technology services across the whole
corporation for the next 10 years. The BBC expects to
save around Ł30 million per annum over the life of the

Production company BDA (Bruce Dunlop & Associates)
announced the launch of an entertainment-led property
channel on the Sky Platform. Real Estate TV will be
launched in October 2004 in the UK. Former Flextech
management board member Mark Dodd will be heading up
Real Estate TV in partnership with BDA. "In addition
to providing developers and agents with a new way to
market property not only in the UK, but across the
world, Real Estate TV differs from other dedicated
teleshopping channels by offering viewers a wide
selection of the latest editorial content, including
the channel's very own commissioned programmes, " the
company commented. Real Estate TV has also acquired
the programming rights for Property Rescue and the
exclusive rights to Location Location. Complementary
to the editorial content, Real Estate TV will also be
presenting a blend of teleshopping windows and spot
advertising. The interactive aspect of the channel
will be supported by Broadband and mobile telephone
services. The channel will air on Sky 18 hours a day,
from 6am to midnight, and negotiations to transmit the
channel over cable are underway with both NTL and