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UMG eyes music channel

Insiders say co. in negotiations with satcaster EchoStar

Universal Music Group is close to launching its own satellite TV music channel in an innovative marketing bid designed to highlight its position as the globe’s largest music conglom.

Insiders say the company, a division of Vivendi Universal, is in final negotiations with satcaster EchoStar Communications Corp., and that the new music channel could be under way by early next year.

Universal Music would use the channel to promote its artists, with a particular eye on exposing U.S. auds to international recording artists. Since the summer, U labels have been promoting in the U.S. Snow Patrol, Scissors Sisters and Keane, all acts that have broken in the United Kingdom.

With MTV long ago relinquishing its all-music video format, Universal’s 24-hour channel would look to pick up the slack. All ancillary programming — whether live concerts, backstage interviews or the making of a record — would be anchored around musicvideos.

Helping on the project for Universal Music is former MTV programming topper Andy Schuon, who left his gig as programming chief for Infinity radio in January. He doesn’t yet have an official title at U, but is expected to be officially on board when the 24/7 channel bows.

Channel would be carried on EchoStar’s Dish Network, which has roughly 10 million to 11 million subscribers. U had been talking to DirecTV earlier in the year about a music channel.

It’s arguably far easier to launch a new channel on Dish or rival DirecTV, since satcasters are eager to sign deals for innovative programming.

Other music distribs, including Sony-BMG, have discussed the idea of label-owned channels. Intriguingly, the interest is being struck as music companies are becoming standalone units separated from vertically integrated entertainment companies.

EchoStar and Universal Music both declined to comment.

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