Beauty parade for HD DTT candidates

From Sotires Eleftheriou in Paris

The four candidates for the two HD DTT channels earmarked for the private sector presented their projects to the broadcasting regulator CSA. The third HD DTT channel goes to the public sector France Televisions. The CSA should announce its decision at the beginning of December, with broadcasts to start during 2008. The four candidates each spent twenty minutes outlining their project and answering the CSA's questions.

The four projects are: Metropole Television (parent company of M6) whose project is a HD version of its channel. M6 already broadcasts some of its programmes in HD via cable and satellite. The company would invest E40 million over five years. The amount of HD content would be 2-3 hours a day at startup in June 2008.

The second candidate, TF1, pointed out that it had already broadcast 300 programmes in HD since May 2006 and undertook to broadcast 35 per cent of its programming between 4pm and midnight in HD, well above the minimum of 25 per cent stipulated by the CSA.

The third candidate, AB NT was the only one to propose a brand new channel, to be called Terranova HD. Finally, Canal+ was the only pay channel proposed. It has already been operating an HD version of its channel on cable and satellite, for which it charges E9 a month over the standard subscription. Its CEO Bertrand Meheut pointed out that the channel had already broadcast 600 hours in native HD since the beginning of this year, and a premium pay channel would be a natural complement to a free private sector and a free public sector channel. Industry watchers tip TF1 and Canal + as favourites in this contest.

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