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Channel 5 launch price climbs

LONDON – The launch cost of the U.K.’s upcoming Channel 5 has risen by another £50 million ($83 million), to cover extra technological expenses.

Channel 5 is now due to launch on March 30, three months later than originally planned. But before it is allowed to do so, it must retune VCRs in millions of households to make sure that they do not suffer interference from the Channel 5 signal.

This process was budgeted to cost $166 million, itself double Channel 5 Broadcasting’s original estimates. But the web now says that it expects to spend a total of $249 million on retuning.

At the same time, Channel 5 has stretched its program budget to encompass blockbuster deals with Hollywood studios. It recently paid $23 million for a package of Fox movies including the U.K. network premiere of “Independence Day.” That fell outside the channel’s original $180 million annual program budget.

Channel 5 also stepped outside the budget to bid $90 million for a four-year package of Warner shows including “ER” and “Friends,” but was beaten to the deal by Channel 4, which paid a reported $117 million.

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