U.S. net to merge Hungarian channels

BUDAPEST — U.S.-owned Global TV Network (GTN) is purchasing the Hungarian cabler Sziv TV, and plans to merge the channel with the M Sat cable network, owned by the Hungarian Broadcast Corp. (HBC).

Neither GTN nor HBC disclosed the cost of the deal.

The M Sat/Sziv marriage is more than an administrative change. Beginning in March, Sziv TV will abandon its general-entertainment programming and become a basic tier movie network; M Sat will focus on lifestyle, children’s and travel programming.

“They’re giving M Sat this funky new profile, and hip young look,” said Cecilia Hazai, co owner of the Budapest based distribber Twin Media. “And it is a smart move for Sziv as well. Right now the best-rated programs in Hungary are films.”

Sziv TV will be transmitted from M Sat studios, thereby cutting production costs on the station, which has been rumoured to be on the brink of financial collapse.

Sziv TV transmits to about 800,000 households nationwide via satellite link to cable headends; M Sat reaches about 1 million homes by way of satellite uplink to headends and MMDS transmission in Budapest.

But the reach of both stations in this market of 3.7 million TV households could create legal obstacles for this new broadcast company.

The GTN/HBC deal still needs to be approved by the National Radio Television Commission (ORTT), which may not give the greenlight because of regs preventing a single company from owning more than one national general-entertainment channel.

Lawyers are reportedly arguing whether Sziv TV and M Sat are regional or national broadcasters.

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