NEW YORK (Reuters) - Viacom Inc’s VIAb.N MTV Networks International will launch its first high definition cable channel outside the United States this month, with more in Europe and Latin America by the end of the year, as it tempers its growth plan with stricter cost controls.
The new channel, MTVNHD (MTV Networks High Definition), will make its debut on September 15 and will carry over 300 hours of new music and programming for kids.
Unlike MTV’s earlier launches of networks, which were in local languages, MTVNHD will air shows in English initially.
It will first launch in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Poland and Sweden.
Then France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the UK, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela will get the high definition programming by the end of 2008.
MTV Networks’ ability to launch quickly in multiple regions — albeit only in one language — is derived from an experiment it started last year by consolidating production of some content in regional hubs that are used across several territories.
Its newest expansion is made possible by producing and broadcasting shows from Warsaw to cut down on costs.
A production center in Buenos Aires is expected to do the same for Latin America.
“Traditionally we would have launched country by country but it would have taken awhile before we launched to the world,” MTVN International President Robert Bakish said in a phone interview.”
Last year, it began creating graphics and producing news segments in Milan for several of its European networks.
The European audience for high definition programming, which offers crisper pictures and much improved sound, is limited to only about 2.5 million owners of HD TV sets, but demand for good content is high, Bakish said. An estimated 37 million U.S. homes have HD TV sets, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.
“Over the next 18 months, people will be pleasantly surprised over the take-up of HD,” Bakish said. “If you talk to operators around the world ... they really don’t have enough product.”
Editing by Gary Hill