Zeffirelli, Frost go to opera

Two launch cable channel to tap rich aud

AMSTERDAM — Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli and British TV commentator David Frost have teamed up to launch Europe’s newest niche TV venture, the Opera Channel.

Set to launch across the Eutelsat Hotbird footprint in Europe early next year, the channel is being branded as “the opera lover’s answer to MTV,” according to Anthony Whitehouse, a chartered accountant with Bittiner, Whitehouse in Geneva, who is setting up the venture for Zeffirelli and Frost.

The channel will be completely supported by sponsors.

“Our research shows there are some 1.5 million opera lovers in Europe and that most of them are extremely well-heeled,” Whitehouse told Daily Variety. Average monthly income of the targeted audience, he notes, is some 4000 Euros ($3750). The average monthly income of all TV viewers across Europe is around $1700.

The channel, which will broadcast daily from 6 p.m. until midnight, plans to line up key sponsors willing to fork out close to a million dollars to be the sole sponsor one day a week.

In addition to film, Zeffirelli, whose pic “Tea With Mussolini” recently bowed in the U.S., has been active in both opera and theater. He recently finished a production of “La Traviata” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. His movie “Othello,” starring Placido Domingo and Katia Riccarelli, received critical acclaim in the opera world.