ZURICH — Switzerland’s first entertainment commercial web, TV3, launched Monday, marking the end of 15 years of deliberation over whether or not to launch commercial television into a Swiss market place long considered too small a host for the mass medium.

Backed by local print giant TA-Media and broadcasting heavyweight SBS Broadcasting, TV3 is aiming to win back younger viewers who have strayed to the German channels available via cable.

Station hopes to carve out a 10%-15% stake of the audience share and 20%-25% of the advertising market within three years.

Targeting the 15-49 year old demo with a mix of upbeat domestic programming and U.S. shows such as “ER” and “NYPD Blue,” three of the 18.5 hours of programming broadcast per day are filled with domestic productions. TV3’s contract stipulates it broadcast two hours of local shows daily.

The emergence of the channel and the local production quota bodes well for the underdeveloped local television production industry. TV3 already has 13 local productions under its belt, and is contracting eight independent companies.

Careful timing

Juerg Wildberger, managing director of TV3, played a key role in convincing TA-Media and SBS Broadcasting, which both hold 50% in the channel, that now was the right time to launch into the new market.

“Seeing the growth in advertising generated by the German channels’ Swiss advertising windows here convinced us the market has potential,” Wildberger told journalists in Zurich on Monday.

TV3 is up against 24 channels on offer from neighboring countries via cable and satellite in the German speaking part of Switzerland which, with five million television homes, is by far the largest market in a country made up of German, French and Italian speaking regions.

German players, rather than grumble about the added competition in Switzerland where they can be received, have welcomed the channel as another outlet for programming.

“The fear was when we announced the launch of the channel that Kirch and Bertelsmann would follow,” remarks Martin Lindskog president of SBS. “Instead they have been selling us programming.”

TV3 has acquired a large portion of its programming, including U.S. shows from German rights traders such as Kirch and Tele-Munchen, but also has some direct deals with studios including Warner Bros. and Disney.

Set to ward off strong competition from pubcaster SF1 on the news front is an exclusive deal with CNN that allows TV3 to tap into CNN’s worldwide news resources.

In its first year of operations, TV3 is aiming to take in SFR50 million ($34 million) in net ad revenues. This would cover two thirds of its annual expenditure of $49 million, which contains a $40 million programming budget.