Today sees the launch of three major new satellite channels in the United Kingdom: Nickelodeon, the Family Channel and a female-oriented service called UK Living.

All are part of the Sky Multi-Channels package, which debuts today with great fanfare.

This is a subscription package, similar to the basic tier on a cable system , offering a mix of new services and existing channels which have to date been available free to Astra dish owners.

Viewers who sign up before Christmas will pay T3.99 ($ 6) a month, but this will rise to T6.99 ($ 10.50) in the new year. Those who already pay for BSkyB’s premium movie or sports channels will receive the basic tier for no extra charge.

Along with the three channels launching today, the package includes BSkyB’s Sky One and Sky News, plus Bravo, Discovery, the Children’s Channel, UK Gold, Country Music TV Europe and MTV. Soon to join are QVC, Nick at Nite and VH-1.

U.S. investment

Nickelodeon is launching as a 50/50 joint venture between Viacom and BSkyB. The Family Channel, owned by Pat Robertson’s Intl. Family Entertainment, will transmit solely evenings. UK Living is backed by American cablers Tele-Communications Inc. and Cox Communications, along with Brit partner Thames TV.

Sky Multi-Channels is being managed by BSkyB, which will pay each member channel a fee of 15 pence per subscriber per month. It marks the switch by BSkyB , which is 50% owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Intl., to an all-pay TV business, with 80% of its revenues already coming from subscription and just 20% from advertising.

Rupert Murdoch will celebrate the occasion with a high-powered feast at Whitehall Palace tonight, attended by the great and the good of the British political and media establishment.

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