N.Y. Op Asks: Parlez-Vous TV5?

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Time Warner Cable's New York City system added a French component to its collection of multicultural digital premium services last week.

It debuted TV5 Etats-Unis, the U.S. cable channel programmed by TV5 Monde, one of Europe's largest broadcasters.

TV5 Etats-Unis launched March 19, less than 24 hours after Time Warner and TV5 Monde officials cinched an agreement.

Without benefit of an advance marketing push, Time Warner transmitted last week's programming free to its 350,000 digital customers in order to generate buzz.

Premium status begins this week. Digital subscribers may receive TV5 Etats-Unis for $9.95 per month. Analog subscribers can get it at the same rate, plus $3 for a "digital navigator" mini-tier that consists of a Pioneer-supplied interactive program guide, 40 Music Choice channels and several pay-per-view channels.

Time Warner started considering TV5 Etats-Unis for digital about a year ago, but negotiations only moved toward the deal-making stage a few weeks back.

System officials believed that the launch, timed with other additions to the digital tier last week — Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network, Boomerang, CMT: Country Music Television, Great American Country and Word Network — would provide enough sparks among the estimated 500,000 local French-speaking people, as well as New York's Francophiles.

"In this particular community, a lot of folks know TV5 and the kind of programming they provide," Time Warner New York marketing chief Barbara Kelly said.

"The press coverage on the launch and the free preview would, in our estimation, create considerable buzz with this crowd. The full marketing campaign later will capitalize on that buzz, and go after incremental customers as well."

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In New York, Time Warner provides Greek, Indian, Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Dominican Republic and other international services on digital for a separate charge, $9.95 per month for most channels.

Elsewhere in the U.S., TV5 is largely packaged as a stand-alone digital basic service, or as part of International Channel's multilingual service bundle. AT&T Broadband's Seattle system introduced the International Channel package to its digital subs March 20, following TV5 rollouts last fall in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The TV5 Etats-Unis schedule includes newscasts, primetime movie blocks, fashion shows, international soccer and rugby, food shows and weekday-afternoon children's fare.

All films and series carry English subtitles.

TV5 Monde claims to be the globe's third-largest service, behind MTV: Music Television and Cable News Network.

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