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Commercial web finally launches

ATV makes debut with party, pix

PRAGUE — Austria’s first national commercial TV channel ATV bowed June 1 after decades of debate and delay.

It kicked off with a party in Vienna’s famous Prater park and a first evening’s broadcasts heavily skewed to its target 12-39 aud, including a pop chart program, an extreme sports show, a society magazine, and guy movies “Break Point” and “From Dusk Till Dawn.”

ORF, Austria’s powerhouse pubcaster, holds an audience share of around 50% with its two channels; most of the remaining 50% watch German channels on cable and satellite.

And those are the channels that ATV’s CEO and general manager Franz Prenner has in his sights.

“ORF is not the first competition,” says Prenner. “It’s RTL2 and ProSieben. We aim to win the young audiences back from the German channels.”

Prenner’s background includes eight years with ORF creating its sponsorship and sales house division, which grew into a $25 million per year industry during his tenure.

He replaces Tillmann Fuchs, with whom he expected to share management duties.

“Tillmann’s strategy was to look for partners in politics and assure them that ATV would be successful,” says Prenner. “He is a good lobbyist and he did a good job in winning the license.”

ATV aims to pull a 5% share by the end of its first year, rising to 15% by the end of year three. “It’s a very high target,” Prenner admits.

Starting out as a Vienna city cable channel at the end of the 1990s and expanding into a national cable channel, the station attracted only 1-2% of viewers.

To push those numbers up, ATV spent half of its $10 million launch budget on a marketing campaign.

ATV reaches 75% of Austrian households and Prenner estimates that half of those tuned in at some point during its first week.

ATV plans to expand to reach the 25% of auds in the mountainous regions by the end of the year, when it will begin broadcasting via Astra satellite.