LONDON — Britain’s Channel 5, one of the last terrestrial stations to come onstream in Europe, is putting its faith in Hollywood as it gears up for launch on March 30.Details of its schedule, announced Tuesday, reveal a program lineup designed on U.S. lines with shows stripped across the week and about 40% of the programming acquired from U.S. producers. C5 executives said they hoped the new station’s strongest selling point would be a 9 p.m. movie screened daily. The decision to show feature films and TV movies in a mid-evening slot is designed to lure viewers away from BBC1 and ITV, Britain’s two most popular channels, which currently transmit news shows at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., respectively. “Our feature film policy is probably our biggest innovation,” said David Bergg, Channel 5’s controller, program planning and acquisition. He said that films would be deliberately targeted to match the demographic appeal of programs on rival stations. “If ITV is showing a drama at 9 p.m. that has a strong following from young, up-market women, we will put on a film that is popular with the same section of the audience,” Bergg explained. C5 says it has bought the rights to more than 400 Hollywood movies. The station has concluded deals with all the major Hollywood studios except Disney and Warners. But pacts with both these studios are in the cards, according to Bergg. Another innovation is latenight adult films screened on weekends. “We are a film-based rather than a series-based channel,” he added. Nevertheless, U.S. TV fare will feature prominently in C5’s sked. The new Aaron Spelling soap “Sunset Beach” will be shown every weekday at lunchtime. Other American series include daily screenings of “The Bold and the Beautiful” plus showcases for “Twin Peaks,” “Melrose Place” and “Journeys of Hercules” and “Xena: Warrior Princess.” There also is a sprinkling of antipodean fare, including a daily dose of Oz kids’ soap “Bush Patrol” and Oz drama “Halifax SP.” At $208 million a year, C5’s program budget is a fraction of its main terrestrial rivals, so the reliance on imports is a matter of economic necessity. However, the American feel to much of C5’s programming extends beyond the shows themselves. Sources suggest the station’s main evening newscast will bear more than a passing resemblance to a U.S.-style newsmagazine. The five-night-a-week chatshow, “The Jack Docherty Show,” resembles “Late Night With David Letterman.” Even the station’s biggest single investment, a home-grown weekday soap, “Family Affairs,” is being produced by Oz’s Reg Grundy Prods., whose owners, Pearson, are investors in C5. C5 CEO David Elstein predicted Tuesday the new web would achieve a 5% audience share by Christmas. Not everyone in the British television industry is so optimistic. Transmission problems involving the retuning of domestic videocassette recorders have already delayed the station’s launch by three months. And there is still some skepticism that the brash upstart will be able to meet its target of a March 30 start date because these difficulties have not yet been overcome.
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