France’s Spectacle cabler plans to shutter

Channel is first thematic net to close

PARIS — Spectacle, the 18-month-old interactive cable and digital service devoted to culture, is to shutter, becoming France’s first thematic channel to close.

The channel, launched by Tim Newman in November 1996 and 100% owned by Canal Plus, will stop broadcasting June 30.

The closure brings to an end one of the pioneers of interactive digital programming and underlines the difficulties of launching thematic channels in France’s cluttered digital and cable world, where it is increasingly difficult to get cable or digital platform operators to pay for new services.

Spectacle’s original launch format was as a cultural tele-shopping service, where clients paid to have their products (video releases, records, concert tickets, etc.) promoted on the channel and bought by viewers who ordered via their set-top boxes.

“The major problem was that we weren’t on cable in Paris,” Newman noted. That’s because the Paris cable system is con-trolled by Lyonnaise des Eaux, a backer of the Television Par Satellite (TPS) digital platform which rivals Canal Plus’ Canal Satellite digital operation.

Format change

Late last year, Spectacle changed its format. “We wanted to do a kind of E! Entertainment idea of entertainment news with a French cultural slant,” said the channel president. “And we wanted it to be interactive.”

The new format, previously unseen in France, was for a regular channel which talked about cultural events and which also gave viewers the chance to buy products referred to in the programming. A report on an upcoming rock concert allowed viewers to buy tickets to the concert using their credit cards and interactive digital set-top boxes.