Disney spreads wings with wholly owned non branded operation in UK

MUMBAI: This is a deal that marks a first for Walt Disney. In the UK the mouse is all set to launch its first wholly owned, nonbranded broadcast operation outside the US.

Reports indicate that Disney's FTA channel will launch in the UK on the Freeview digital platform. Disney already has a branded pay TV service in the UK. The as yet unnamed new channel will go on air later on in the year.

Freeview is marketed by DTV Services. It is run by its three shareholders - the BBC, Crown Castle International and BSkyB. Disney already has a stake in several European broadcasters such as RTL in Germany and GM TV in the UK.

The Hollywood Reporter indicates that in the UK Freeview carries channels like as BBC 1, 2, 3 and 4; Sky Sports News; ITV News; Sky Travel; Sky News; U.K. History and other top branded services. Subscription is in the region of two million, but analysts expect that number to grow considerably in the coming years.

Freeview service provides 30 free digital TV and radio channels in addition to interactive services. It is broadcast from transmitters and received via a rooftop antenna.

The new Freeview deal places Disney as an existing, locally owned digital service while still giving ownership rights to Disney. Although foreign ownership rules will be relaxed soon in the UK outside companies are expected to demonstrate commitment to local programming.

A Reuters report further informs that Disney also sells content to other British broadcasters. It signed a deal with the BBC earlier this week for the exclusive terrestrial rights to more than 100 films, including Chicago and Pirates of the Caribbean.

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