MTV a factory cog

Net nabs slot on Freeview's U.K. platform

LONDON — Viacom-owned music web MTV has nabbed a spot for its 24-hour Music Factory channel on the U.K.’s free digital terrestrial platform Freeview, skedded to launch Oct. 30.

TMF, available only in Belgium and Holland, is MTV Networks Europe’s first family offering in Blighty.

Freeview confirmed Thursday that it has now filled 29 of the 30 slots. The joint venture of the BBC, transmitter group Crown Castle Intl. and satcaster BSkyB is in talks with companies, including Turner Broadcasting, to fill the final position. Turner wants carriage for CNN, kidvid net Boomerang and Turner Classic Movies.

“We’ve signed a letter of intent (with Turner) but we are still in commercial discussions,” said Berwyn Roberts, sales and business development director at Crown Castle. The final slot is expected to be filled before launch.

Other TV channels to join the platform include new music web EMAP’s the Hits, and two general entertainment services — UKTV’s U.K. Home Style and Flextech’s FTN (Flextech Television Network).

Offers Brit shows

U.K. Home Style is a daytime lifestyle channel that will offer Brit-produced shows, including programs from nets U.K. Style and U.K. Living. FTN will showcase content from Flextech’s wholly owned channels, Bravo, Trouble, LivingTV and Challenge? Flextech is the content division of cable company Telewest. UKTV is a joint venture between the BBC and Flextech.

Crown Castle said it has made technical improvements that include doubling the power at many transmitters so that 1.5 million more homes will be able to receive digital terrestrial, about 75% of homes in the U.K. Of those, however, about 25% will need to upgrade their aerial.

Crown Castle claims there will be fewer signal problems. Its failed predecessor ITV Digital (formerly OnDigital) suffered high churn rate due to its poor quality signal. The platform shuttered earlier this year with 1.2 million subscribers.

DTT set-top boxes are retailing at £99 ($155), and Freeview claims 20,000 units are being shipped per month. No forecasts were given, but the company said it expects “a lot of take-up.”

Freeview confirmed that viewers who bought set-top boxes to receive ITV Digital will be able to use them to watch Freeview.

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