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AOL TW spins plans for music channel

Launch of MTV, VH1 rival could be end of year

NEW YORK — AOL Time Warner is moving ahead with its previously announced plans to launch a cable TV music channel.

The net, which would go head-to-head with Viacom’s MTV and VH1, could launch as soon as the end of this year. The music cabler is said to be a pet project of Bob Pittman, AOL Time Warner’s co-chief operating officer, who was one of MTV’s founders.

Former WB topper Jamie Kellner, recently appointed chief executive of Turner Broadcasting Group, would likely oversee the venture.

In recent years, it has been increasingly difficult for new cable nets to gain distribution. Time Warner Cable is available in nearly 13 million homes, but there is no guarantee it would carry the new music channel. For instance, the giant cabler didn’t carry CNN sister net CNNfn for several years after it launched. By contrast, MTV is available in more than 78 million homes.

Casualty list

Other music cable networks have tried to challenge MTV’s dominance but have failed to gain distribution. Turner Broadcasting launched Cable Music Channel in 1984, but it quickly faded. Rainbow Media’s MuchMusic, which launched in 1994, is still around, but it has made little impact and is available in just 18 million homes. In October, MTV Networks merged the Box, which it acquired in July 1999, with its digital net MTV2. Combined, they reach 30 million homes.

An AOL Time Warner spokesman declined comment.

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