LISBON — Portugal will auction a free-to-air TV license for a national channel to compete with the four existing nets.

The new channel will be carried on a digital terrestrial television platform, along with simulcasts from pubcaster channels RTP1 and RTP2 plus commercial webs TVI and SIC.

Portugal, the last country in Western Europe to implement digital terrestrial TV, will also bow a DTT platform for payboxes.

Auctions for the two platforms are due to launch in the first half of the year.

The announcement of a new general entertainment channel is likely to spark considerable interest in Portugal given that the four incumbents had a combined 84.5% viewing share in 2007, as against a 15.5% share for all cable and satellite channels.

Potential bidders for the new channel include Portugal Telecom, Sonaecom, Abertis and Vodafone.

RTP will be a key player in the launch of DTT in Portugal. Its new charter entitles it to launch two new thematic channels by 2011, and its flagship RTP1 is the country’s second most popular channel, with a 25.2% average share in 2007 (behind TVI with a 29% share and ahead of SIC with a 25.1% share).