Nat’l Geo toasts launch on French TV

Channel bows on digital platform Canal Satellite Sept. 22

PARIS — National Geographic Channel execs on Monday toasted the burgeoning web’s imminent launch on French television.

In a nod to the notoriously difficult-to-crack French market, John O’Loan, the channel’s managing director, Europe, described the Sept. 22 launch on digital platform Canal Satellite as “the most important project in the new millennium.”

Deals with Gallic cable operators are expected to follow. David Haslingden, CEO National Geographic Channels Intl., told Daily Variety: “France has been the hardest market for us to get into, but I think it is the one where our programs are going to resonate most with TV audiences.”

The nature-themed channel will be offered as part of Canal Satellite’s Grand Spectacle bouquet. Tailor-made for France, it will broadcast 18 hours a day, including six hours of new programs. To comply with local broadcasting rules, half of the schedule must be European in origin.

Execs stayed tight-lipped about the French channel’s budget, but Haslingden did reveal that it would not be profitable for “four or five years.”

It could pay off quicker if a rumored merger of Canal Satellite with rival platform TPS goes ahead. While Canal Satellite boasts 1.67 million subscribers, TPS has 1.04 million. However, a clutch of local nature channels already broadcast on both platforms would be vying for place.

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