Sony pay-TV channels will come to UK as VoD services

LONDON - Sony is preparing to launch its three internationally distributed pay-TV channels in the UK as video-on-demand services.

Outside the UK, Sony operates three core pay-TV channel brands: high-energy action channel AXN, general entertainment channel Sony Entertainment Television and animé channel Animax.

The channels are currently not available in the UK as linear services, but the company is weighing up plans for their introduction into the UK on an on-demand basis.

Ross Hair, senior vice-president of international networks for Sony Pictures Television International, said: "The UK is a very crowded market with lots of niches already well served. But we will bring these channels to the UK first as VoD services."

Hair declined to confirm when the services could launch, but said they would appear via the main UK VoD platforms in the short term.

Hair said that Sony is also mulling opportunities for a free-to-air ad-supported offering on Freeview, although such a move is dependent on new frequencies becoming available.

The digital terrestrial platform is currently at full capacity, with no new channel slots available.

Even if new capacity were to become available through improvements in signal-compression technology, it would likely come at a hefty cost: Channel 4 paid a reported £12m for a new channel slot in 2005.

Hair said: "As digital switchover progresses and there are more digital homes in the UK, the closer we will get to a point where the ­economics of running a channel on Freeview are improved."

Sony is one of the biggest pay-TV channel operators worldwide, with its channels reaching tens of millions of homes. But the outfit believes the UK market now offers few opportunities for pay-TV broadcasters.

Hair added: "Virgin Media is occupied with a lot of internal issues at the moment, such as creating its own content. At the same time, BSkyB has decided to cease taking new applications for channels. So prospects for new pay-TV channels in the UK are small."

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