Television

Murdoch hedging bets on reality programming with new channel

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MUMBAI: Media baron Rupert Murdoch's News Corp is reportedly examining the possibility of launching a new network devoted entirely to the reality genre. The tentatively titled Fox Reality Channel will be cable-and-satellite-delivered, according to a report in Electronic Media.

The digital-tier cable channel is expected to be up and running in the United States by 2005. The reality channel could be tested on satellite in the UK before launching in the US. Internationally it will be a delivered through satellite. 

Murdoch's Fox Network is considered to be a pioneer in reality programming with shows such as the American version of Pop Idol, Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire, Temptation Island, Cops and America's Most Wanted.

However, issues of cost and carriage will reportedly need to be sorted out before the channel can become a reality. Issues that will affect the rollout are the shaky state of the US economy in general and the cable business in particular, reports say.

On the one hand, a depressed marketplace could make News Corp. and other content providers more conservative in their programming and production planning overall. On the other a channel with the irresistible reality buzz might prove overwhelmingly popular for multiple system operators who need to give customers good reasons to go digital.

The report also indicates that News Corp is contemplating a channel around classic Fox TV programming. The strategy is aimed at countering rival media giant Viacom's Nick at Nite and TV Land.

Planning for the two channels began last year when News Corp was bidding for DirectTV. The assumption sources made for the bid at the time was that when News Corp added the North American direct broadcast satellite service to its vast existing international satellite capacity, which includes British Sky Broadcasting in the United Kingdom and Star TV in Asia, channel capacity would become available and opportunities for launching new channels would naturally arise. 

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