SBS Firing Up Its Cable Web

The Scandinavian satcaster SBS will soon spawn a Dutch cable channel in efforts to beat to the wire the commercial relaunch next September of Holland’s most powerful public broadcaster, Veronica.

SBS president Harry Sloan confirmed last week that SBS is applying for a Dutch cable license and “plans to start up as soon as possible.” A tentative launch date is expected to be set within a matter of days.

Rumors of the launch heated up in Holland last week following the surprise defection of a top Dutch broadcast executive from rival broadcaster RTL 5 to become general manager of the SBS Dutch operations. Fons van Westerloo will step up to the SBS post on May 1.

SBS has channels in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and last month launched into Belgium with U. K-based VT4, targeted to the Dutch-speaking territory of Flanders. CapCities/ABC has a minority stake in SBS.

Veronica, the largest and wealthiest of the Dutch pubcasters, will leave the state system next fall to join with Dutch commercial market leader RTL 4 and its sister channel RTL 5 in a three-channel network backed by pan-Euro media group CLT, indie producer Endemol Entertainment and giant Dutch publisher VNU.

RTL 5 program coordinator Bart Isn’t Houd also defected to SBS last week to become program coordinator for the new channel.

Sloan said the hiring of Van Westerloo, a longtime Dutch industry veteran with a strong background in production and programming, and In’t Houd, was intended “to send a strong and clear signal that we will heavily emphasize local production” in Holland.

The SBS chief added that the new Dutch channel will “fully comply with European Union broadcast quota regulations” but added it might take some time to do so.

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