U.S. Cable Jumps Magyar TV

A $5 million investment by a U.S.-based TV and cable company has boosted Hungary’s commercial TV industry with a much-needed injection of capital and resources.

The NASDAQ-traded investment firm, the Hungarian Telephone & Cable Corp. (HTCC), recently acquired a substantial interest in the new Hungarian commercial TV channel, A3 Television, says A3 representative Gabriella Zahoran.

HTCC’s investment makes it the “main owner” and dominant shareholder in the A3 venture, Zahoran told Variety.

HTCC’s investment in A3 comes in a season of phenomenal growth in Hungarian broadcasting. Earlier in the winter, another commercial television station, called TV3, added its signal to the Hungarian dial. Like A3, TV3 received a local broadcast license during a brief reprieve in Hungary’s state-imposed licensing ban last spring, and now serves the Budapest market via microwave transmission.

Households galore

As Hungary’s first 24-hour station, A3 currently reaches 500,000 households – in a total market of 3.77 million TV homes – via microwave transmission. HTCC’s interest in this fledgling station, which first aired Sept. 16, may have been influenced by its plans to expand its market share by getting on cable systems.

The channel currently airs mostly musicvideos and has been gaining a reputation as a hip, innovative, and youth-oriented programmer.

Popular A3 innovations include a phone-in music video show and a commitment to air Hungarian-produced videos instead of the western fare currently playing on MTV Europe.

Music lite

But A3’s reliance on music will reportedly be lessened shortly. According to Zahoran, eventually only 20% of A3’s lineup will consist of vidclips. The channel’s slate will also include movies, game shows and dramas.

Channel reps report that its movie lineup will be augmented by a distribution contract sealed with 20th Century Fox. And in order to give its programming roster a balance between U.S. and European-made products, A3 has sealed an agreement with a French distributor to acquire and air Gallic pics.

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