MTV grabs slot on U.K.’s Freeview

Turner fights for place on DTT platform

LONDON – Viacom-owned music channel MTV has managed to secure a spot for its 24-hour channel The Music Factory on U.K. digital terrestrial platform Freeview, which is scheduled to launch Oct. 30.

TMF, currently only available in Belgium and Holland, will be MTV Networks Europe’s first offering in Blighty targeting the entire family.

Freeview confirmed Thursday it has now filled 29 of the 30 available slots. The company, a joint venture between the BBC, transmitter group Crown Castle International and satcaster BSkyB, is in talks with a number of companies to fill the final position including Turner Broadcasting which wants to secure carriage for CNN, children’s channel 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 new TV channels to join the platform include new music channel EMAP’s The Hits, and two general entertainment services UKTV’s UK Home Style and Flextech’s F tn (Flextech Television Network).

UK Home Style is a new daytime lifestyle channel that will offer original U.K. produced shows including programs from TV channels UK Style and UK Living. F tn 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 that it has made technical improvements such as doubling the power at many transmitters across Britain so that 1.5 million more homes will be able to receive digital terrestrial.

Approximately 75% of homes in the U.K. will be able to receive Freeview, but 25% of them will need to upgrade their aerial. However, 25% of the country will not be able to watch Freeview at all although that figure may fall as Britain gets closer to analogue switch-off.

Crown Castle also claimed 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 currently 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. No monthly subscription fee is required to view Freeview.

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