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Disney to Launch ABC1 Television in Britain

August 05, 2004|From Reuters

Walt Disney Co. on Wednesday said it would launch a version of its ABC television network in Britain next month, taking U.S. shows such as the soap opera "General Hospital" across the Atlantic.

The ABC1 network will initially be available only on Freeview, a popular digital service without subscription fees, though there are plans to expand into pay-TV services.

American shows such as "CSI," "The Simpsons" and "Friends" are big hits in Britain, along with "West Wing," which, like ABC1's sitcom "Sports Night," was created by writer-producer Aaron Sorkin.

The ABC1 launch, along with the forthcoming launch of ITV's ITV3 in November, bolsters Freeview's channel roster ahead of a face-off with a free-to-air satellite platform from British Sky Broadcasting Group this fall.

BSkyB, the British pay-TV service controlled by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., is a partial owner of Freeview along with the BBC but hopes that users of its as-yet-unnamed free satellite platform will eventually become paying BSkyB customers.

ABC1 will be broadcast from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. starting Sept. 27, with plans to eventually expand to a 24-hour schedule.

"In its first phase, ABC1 will champion an underserved British audience -- people who are busy at home during the day," said John Hardie, the Disney television executive who would oversee the launch.

There will be no advertisements during the first few months, but Disney plans to sell ad time eventually.

Disney expects to reveal the full program lineup at the end of August. The drama "Once and Again" also will be on the schedule, Disney said.

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