Warner pacts in cable musicvideo channel

BUDAPEST – A new music TV network affiliated with Warner Music and Time Warner-owned HBO Hungary will be launched in the 10.5 million-strong Hungarian market.

To be fashioned along the lines of Germany’s Viva network, the new music station is tentatively scheduled to be on the air no later than April, after HBO begins broadcasting all three of its central European pay TV services via satellite digital compression in March.

According to HBO sources, the U.S.-based pay service will uplink its Czech, Polish and Hungarian pay TV networks from studios in Hungary. Digital satellite transmission will allow HBO to uplink as many as seven channels, including affiliated networks such as the new Magyar music net and the Hungarian arts and entertainment station Spektrum Televizio.

All programming reportedly will be transmitted to cable outlets only, rather than direct to home. HBO will not officially confirm details of its move to digital transmission or the new music channel until the launch of both services in March.

HBO’s regional bid to go digital undoubtedly will involve U.S. cabler United Intl. Holdings (UIH), which has worked in concert with HBO in each of its three central European markets to create a cable infrastructure for its programming. In Hungary, HBO programming is transmitted via the KabelKom cable system, owned by UIH, Time Warner and US West.

A music channel is expected to be a boon for KabelKom, despite the fact that ‘Top TV, Hungary’s last 24-hour musicvideo network, folded a year ago after barely a season on the air.

According to analysts, music TV is a moneymaker in Hungary despite Top TV’s rapid demise. “There is a demand for music TV, it’s clear,” explained Ferenc Kaczas, international marketing director for the Budapest office of Warner Music. “People liked Top TV.”

But analysts say Top TV was the victim of inept management. The same concept sold in a more professional manner could generate big profits, said Tim Scott Hunter, head of Budapest-based Initiative Media.

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