Sony launches anime channel

German digital network aims at geek demo

BERLIN — Vampires, ninjas, teenage demon killers and galactic war — they’re all coming to German TV via Sony’s newly launched digital channel Animax.

The question is, are there enough homes with digital TV to make it worthwhile?

Sony Pictures Television Intl. is looking to expand its TV operations in Europe’s biggest market with its new anime channel aimed at the monster-and-giant-robot-loving 15-29 male demo, which it hopes will tune in to Japanese series and popular manga adaptations such as “Basilisk,” “Earth Maiden Arjuna,” “Gundam Seed,” “Record of Lodoss War” and “Trinity Blood.”

“The 15- to 29-year-old viewers are looking for new stuff, for fresh and original programming that is not your typical children’s animation,” says Ross Hair, SPTI’s senior vice president of international networks.

Animax, already well established in Asia and Latin America, transmitting to 36 million homes in 38 countries and 11 languages, bowed June 5 on Unity Media’s regional cable networks in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse.

It’s Sony’s second digital channel in Germany after its action web AXN, which launched in 2004.

Sony is looking to match AXN’s broad distribution here, which features more than a dozen providers, including all of the major cable operators and local IPTV services.

The only sticking point to Sony’s ambitious launch remains Germany’s lagging position when it comes to digital penetration.

Hair admits it’s not an optimum situation. “It’s been a real challenge. We had expected digital rollout in Germany to be much quicker than it has been, but we are taking the long-term view that gradually, new digital systems will continue to attract consumers. It’s a demonstrative position and we’re in it for the long haul.”

Indeed, while other major European territories have digital penetration of 60%-70%, in Germany, only 27.5%, or 9.65 million of the country’s 35 million TV households, receive TV digitally. However, that number is growing rapidly. Since the beginning of the year, some 740,000 new households have gone digital.

In the U.K., by contrast, 75% of the country’s 26 million TV households are already digital.

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