245 channels launched in 2009; 220 closed

LONDON — More than 245 TV channels bowed in Europe last year, despite the financial crisis. But it was by no means an all-growth story as 220 channels went off air.

The continent now boasts around 7,200 webs, according to research published Wednesday by the European Audiovisual Observatory.

Sport was the most popular genre among the new launches with 38 new channels, followed by channels aimed at kids, with 17 launches.

Blighty remains far and away Europe’s most dynamic TV biz with 1,033 channels based in the territory. Almost half of the channels operating from the U.K. broadcast to other European countries, including local-language versions of channels such as Disney Cinemagic and Viasat Explorer.

A long way behind in second place was Italy (388), followed by France (297), Germany (227) and Spain (195).

Among the channels closing down were more than 100 local Spanish webs, which went dark following the closure of the Localia network controlled by the Prisa Group.

Also mothballed were various MTV channels targeting the Baltic states, local-language versions of business broadcaster Bloomberg, and the demise of sports web Setanta in the U.K., where ESPN moved in to fill the gap.

Twenty-four European countries now have digital terrestrial television systems up and running, while three others are in the process of launching

Digital switchover is complete in Germany, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden, while partial switchover has occurred in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Italy and the U.K.

The analog signal is due to be turned off this year in Austria, Malta, Spain and Slovenia.

DTT was launched last year in Latvia, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia, and will be launched in Bulgaria, Ireland and Romania this year.

Pay DTT services made their debut last year in Germany, Latvia and Spain.

The EAO estimated that more than 730 channels were being broadcast via European DTT networks.

Of these more than 300 were local and regional channels. This compares with approximately 500 in April 2009.

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