Cable-industry veteran Trygve Myhren is leading the
management team that is set this week to launch The Scandinavian Channel, a premium
service that will offer programming from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden for
The Denver-based channel will also have a Web site, which
debuts along with the video channel this Friday (Oct. 15).
The a la carte premium service, which will be priced at
$9.95 per month, has one corporate-affiliation deal so far, with Comcast Corp. But talks
are also in progress with AT&T Broadband & Internet Services, MediaOne Group Inc.
and Time Warner Cable, officials said.
Myhren is chairman of Scandinavian Channel Inc., which
hopes to cater to more than 16 million people of Scandinavian descent who live in North
"I've recognized the interest that Scandinavians
living in North America have in their heritage," said Myhren, who is of Norwegian
descent. He added that the World Wide Web has made the success of niche channels more
likely, using the cross-promotion that can take place between the site and the video
A past chairman of the National Cable Television
Association, Myhren is currently president of Myhren Media Inc., a private-investment
firm. He is also the past president of Providence Journal Co., where he was at the helm
when Food Network was launched, and he is former chairman of defunct MSO American
Television & Communications Corp.
Distribution for The Scandinavian Channel is being handled
by International Channel, which is one of its partners and which also handles affiliate
sales for nine similar premium networks, such as Italian RAI International and French TV5.
Raoul De Soto, vice president and general manager of
International Channel Networks, said that while The Scandinavian Channel has a corporate
deal with Comcast, "That only give us a hunting license. It's up to us to pursue
deals on a local-system level."
The Scandinavian Channel plans to target North American
markets with large Scandinavian populations where digital cable is available or rolling
out, such as Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco and Minneapolis, according to vice president
of marketing Brad Halverson.
Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago are AT&T Broadband
markets, while Minneapolis is MediaOne territory and St. Paul, Minn., is served by Time
Earlier this year, The Scandinavian Channel conducted focus
groups in several of those cities about the programming and what price points people would
be willing to pay, Halverson said, and $9.95 was found to be acceptable.
Under its business model, with the financial support of its
programming partners, The Scandinavian Channel will only need 30,000 to 40,000 subscribers
to hit black ink, according to Myhren. "We have a low break-even point," he
The channel will present new programming daily in a
six-hour block, which will be repeated four times each 24 hours.
Each block will have content from all five countries. With
the exception of news and current affairs, all programs are presented with English
subtitles. A 30-minute daily slice of the network's day is now seen on International
The channel is acquiring most of its programming from the
five largest national Scandinavian broadcasters: Danmarks Radio, Yleis-radio,
Rikisutvarpid, Norsk Rikringkasting and Sveriges Television.
The Scandinavian Channel's partners include Myhren,
the five broadcasters and their five countries, Norwegian communications giant Telenor,
International Channel and private investors.
The channel plans to work with some of the 600
Scandinavian-American political and social community groups on the grassroots level to
build its distribution, Halverson said.
The network is also in talks with DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar
Communications Corp. about carriage. That would be good for the service, as many Americans
of Scandinavian descent live in rural areas that can't get cable, such as areas of
the Dakotas, Halverson said.
The channel is the brainchild of senior vice president of
programming Steinar Hybertsen. Myhren got involved in the project in late 1998. The
channel's CEO is Dean Ericson, a veteran of MSOs such as ATC.