Top Tv Finds Its Niche As MTV Scrambles

Plans by MTV Europe to scramble its signal in eastern Europe have created a niche for Hungary’s newest television network.

Top TV rep Istvan Szabo confirmed that MTV Europe’s departure from Hungarian remote controls as a free, uncoded signal will assure his new channel a captive local audience once it goes on air April 17.

Top’s schedule will be dominated by music vidclips – much of which will be U.S.-made.

According to Szabo, Top TV’s satellite linkage will allow it to circumvent state regulation of the Hungarian broadcast sector. Top TV will reach its market in Hungary by transmitting a signal to satellite which will then be re-transmitted to cable outlets across Hungary.

Hungary’s current private broadcasting ban does not apply to sky or cable transmissions, industry analysts point out.

Subsequently, Top TV is reportedly in the process of signing contractual agreements with 120 cable outlets across Hungary to guarantee that Top programming is added to the roster of each affiliate.

According to Szabo, Top TV will encrypt its satellite signal. However, Top will provide decoding equipment to those cable outlets which agree in writing to carry its transmissions.

In this way, the upstart music channel will be able to build and regulate a national audience, said Szabo.

Top TV representatives claim that this programming will reach 1.2 million TV households immediately after its April launch, and 1.5 million homes by the end of 1995. But according to industry research, this estimate may be overly optimistic.

Hungary’s KabelKom network, the U.S.-owned carrier of the pay TV service HBO Hungary, estimates the size of the local cable market to be roughly 900,000 TV homes. Surveys conducted by AGB Hungary, the research firm responsible for measuring program ratings in this market, places the cable market at 1.3 million households.

But industry analysts report that as many as 400,000 of these homes are connected to noncommercial cable systems – i.e., large apartment and housing complexes which share the feed of a single satellite dish via cable hook-up.

Launched with under $3 million in start-up capital, Top TV’s reliance on free musicvideo programming culled from abroad will save it the trouble and expense of producing its own programming.

Meanwhile, the country’s main broadcasters, Magyar Televizio and TV3, offer regular entertainment and current affairs programming – much of it produced within Hungary. State-owned Magyar TV reaches a national audience via terrestrial tower broadcasts. TV3 reaches a local Budapest audience of under 500,000 via microwave and cable transmissions.

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