Amsterdam, Netherlands -- United Pan-Europe Communications
N.V. (UPC) launched its first two original channels last week, Extreme Sports and UPC Film
I. The channels will roll out on the A2000 cable system here May 1.
Specialist adventure-sports channel Extreme Sports will
replace powerhouse channel Eurosport on the basic service. While subscriber viewership
surveys indicated that Eurosport was very popular, and the Amsterdam city government
wanted it to remain on A2000, talks broke down between the channel and the cable system.
Extreme Sports offers high-thrill sports aimed at 14- to
29-year-olds, and Film I features old movies. Their introduction on A2000 will be followed
by debuts on other UPC systems in September.
UPC, which has holdings across Europe, has some 1.3 million
subscribers in Holland alone, out of the country's total base of 5.8 million. It
jointly owns A2000 with MediaOne International.
The new services follow an agreement between A2000 and the
Amsterdam city government, ending a yearlong conflict.
The agreement, announced earlier this month, restored CNN
International and MTV Europe to A2000's lineup and nixed carriage of Discovery
CNN and MTV -- which had disputed A2000's previous
contention that programmers should pay it a fee -- will transmit on the system, but they
won't receive carriage payments.
Part of the council agreement involved a plan for A2000 to
roll out a digital, tiered interactive service next year. At that time, A2000 will reduce
its basic analog service to 15 public broadcasters. Popular commercial broadcasters will
shift to the first digital tier.
Eurosport officials said the A2000 agreement was
particularly unacceptable because it would have serious Europe-wide implications. "We
receive payments from cable operators in 45 out of 47 countries," said a Eurosport
official, who requested anonymity.
The source downplayed the importance of the Amsterdam
system, noting that it accounted for only 400,000 customers, compared with the
channel's total base of 81 million households.
UPCtv, a UPC programming unit, said it plans to launch six
more channels over a 12-month period beginning in September.