News in Brief

Kids cablecasters make ready for a digital TV universe
September 1, 2002

Kids cablecasters make ready for a digital TV universe

Gearing up for the rollover to digital broadcast mandated to take place in the U.S. by 2006, kids cabler Nickelodeon has gained full control of Noggin by buying out partner Sesame Workshop’s 50% stake. A 24-hour, commercial-free educational channel that shoots into 25 million homes via basic/digital cable and satellite, Noggin offers programming for younger kids during the day and for tweens at night. Nick is betting that as digital TV becomes more entrenched in the marketplace, consumer demand for niche digital nets will increase exponentially.

PBS New York affiliate Thirteen/WNET is also making digital tracks with the launch of Thirteen Kids, a 24-hour diginet for metropolitan New York that features top PBS shows like Sesame Street, Barney & Friends, Caillou and Clifford the Big Red Dog. Currently available to Time Warner cable subscribers, Thirteen Kids will also be picked up by Cablevision shortly.

To speed up the transition to digital broadcast, the Federal Communications Commission has voted three to one to order TV manufacturers to include digital tuners in all sets with screen sizes larger than 36 inches by 2004, and in all sets by 2007. The mandate is sure to be hotly contested by the Consumer Electronics Association, which claims that the addition of digital tuners will drive the price of TVs up by as much as US$250.

Loonland and Metrodome press play on kidvid deal

Aiming to put its stamp on the home entertainment market, TV-Loonland has signed a US$1.9-million deal to pick up a controlling stake in Brit video/DVD distributor Metrodome. The agreement gives Metrodome the rights to Loonland’s existing animated series (including Pongwiffy, Little Ghosts, Yvon of the Yukon and The Cramp Twins), as well as a first-look option on future shows, for an initial term of three years. The first release to come out of the deal this Q4 will be a special Christmas title combining Donner and Santa Mouse and the Ratdeer.

The Final Three duke it out for Kirch holdings

The battle for the assets of bankrupt German TV conglomerate Kirch Media was heating up at press time, with three buyers circling the target. Shortlisted to make a final bid once they’ve had a closer look at the Kirch accounts are: Haim Saban and French broadcaster TF1; a group made up of Mediaset, German retailer Rewe, U.S. investment bank Lehman Bros. and Saudi Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal’s company Kingdom Holdings; and a consortium led by Columbia TriStar International Television and Germany’s Commerzbank.

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