Cable Nets Keep Eye On Trade Talks

While much of the attention surrounding the new trade agreement with China has involved copyright protection and a crackdown on piracy, the doors may also be opening a little wider for cable networks to enter the market.

USA Networks chairman and CEO Kay Koplovitz, a member of the Investment Services Policy & Advisory Committee advising U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, says that as part of the agreement, joint ventures between U.S. cable webs and China-based companies can take place. “It is an effort to open up distribution there,” says Koplovitz, who sees the new agreement as “clearly a step forward.”

Things are not going so smoothly for Kantor & Co. in Canada. The trade rep has personally spoken out against the Canadian Radio-television & Telecommunications Commission’s decision to toss out Westinghouse’s Country Music Television after 10 years because a new local service has started.

Last week several cable networks filed with Kantor to take action and retaliate against Canada if its discriminatory practices continue against U.S. cable networks.

Noticeably absent from the filing was Viacom’s MTV Network, which is not allowed in Canada because of the homegrown service MuchMusic. Meanwhile, MuchMusic is carried on cable systems here.

But Viacom, according to industry sources, is still working on closing certain aspects of the Paramount merger in Canada and did not want to rock the boat by taking part in this protest.

Koplovitz says a response to the CMT and to Canada should happen by the end of the month.

“We need access to the marketplace,” she says.

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