Nick, BSkyB ink U.K. co-venture

Nickelodeon is coming to the U.K., launching this fall as a co-venture between the U.S. children’s programmer and British Sky Broadcasting.

This marks Nickelodeon’s first move outside the United States, and its first step toward globalizing the Nickelodeon brand.

Nickelodeon plans a worldwide network for children combining U.S. programming with material made in conjunction with offshore partners, according to Nickelodeon Program Enterprises senior VP Anne Sweeney.

She said Nick is looking at launching channels or creating program blocks in several European markets, Asia and Latin America.

While she would not specify territories, she said she expects this expansion to happen “within the next two years.”

The U.K. offshoot, launching in October, will carry the Nickelodeon moniker and screen a mix of the U.S. channel’s output and original British programming.

Carried on the Astra IC satellite, and airing 7 a.m.-7 p.m., it’s expected to be encrypted and to be part of a menu of channels, probably including MTV and Sky’s entertainment service Sky One and Sky News, for which subscribers will pay about T2.99 per month.

BSkyB exex have foreshadowed the switch to an all-pay operation and the launch of a new basic tier, but have not named a date.

The new channel is a 50/50 co-venture between MTV Networks, Nickelodeon’s U.S. parent, and BSkyB, 50% owned by News Intl.

“Nickelodeon will be a welcome addition to the U.K. television scene,” said Tom Freston, chairman/CEO of MTV Networks.

“Ultimately we feel Nickelodeon will be as successful and broadly distributed internationally as MTV,” he added.

Nickelodeon president Geraldine Laybourne noted the venture combines the U.S. channel’s creative and production expertise and Sky’s great strength in U.K. marketing and distribution.

Hailing Nickelodeon as “arguably the best channel of its kind in the world,” BSkyB CEO Sam Chisholm said, “This strengthens our grip in the children’s TV market.”

The co-venture evolved from discussions started nearly a year ago between BSkyB’s L.A. rep David Evans and Sweeney.

In Britain, Nickelodeon will be available to Sky’s universe of more than 3.5 million households–or at least that percentage who are willing to pay for the basic tier.

Its main competitor in Britain will be TCI’s Children’s Channel.

However, it’s understood that Sky is negotiating to bring the Children’s Channel into the basic tier, seeing it and Nickelodeon as complementary rather than rivals.

The U.K. channel will operate as an independent business, headed by a yet-to-be appointed chief exec/managing director reporting to a six-person board , three each from MTV Networks and BSkyB.

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