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U.K.’s C5 NEAR ASTRA SAT DEAL

LONDON — Britain’s newly launched Channel 5 is set to reach for the sky and place its signal on the Astra satellite system, a move that would give the fledgling terrestrial a potential 2 million extra viewers.

According to a C5 representative, “(A deal) is hopefully going to be signed within the next couple of weeks.” He said the cost to C5 could be approximately $6.5 million per year.

Astra — which is owned by the Luxembourg-based Societe Europeene de Satellites — has agreed to make space available on one of its satellites to U.K. media group Pearson, one of C5’s four controlling shareholders. Pearson has offered the space to C5.

Currently, C5 is estimated to reach about 60% of Brit households. The satellite service would add 10% more. David Elstein, C5’s chief exec, is also thought to be seeking access for the channel on cable.

In a separate development, C5, along with production company Portman Entertainment, has optioned the rights to the story of British serial killer Fred West for an undisclosed figure from the government’s Official Solicitor, who was acting on behalf of West’s children.

Material accompanying the rights sale includes taped confessions as well as homemade pornographic videos and would be used to help make a TV drama.

Portman already had acquired the film rights to the West story last year, but backed off on an immediate pic after a public outcry. Channel 5 stressed that the possible TV project was still only at a research stage.

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