Disney plots launch of UK ad-funded TV offering on Freeview

Disney is launching its first wholly advertising-funded UK television channel.

Called ABC1, and broadcasting on Freeview, the channel will start broadcasting this autumn.

The announcement was made by David Hulbert, the president, Walt Disney International, at the international upfronts in Los Angeles this week.

With the launch of ABC1, Disney has also created its first non-Disney branded, wholly owned TV channel outside of the US.

Hulbert declined to give details of the channel's content although it is expected that it will show general entertainment programming similar to that shown on Sky's flagship entertainment channel, Sky One, which is currently not available on the Freeview platform.

According to Barb figures, Sky One has seen its share of viewing plummet.

This is despite buying the rights to expensive US imports such as Nip/Tuck and 24.

The launch of the ABC1 offering could force Sky to change its existing Freeview Sky Travel channel to Sky One in order to defend its position.

Disney delayed the launch of its Freeview channel, originally scheduled for January this year, as it continued to secure programming.

Its announcement coincides with Freeview penetration approaching the three million mark.

Although Disney's UK digital satellite and cable channels carry some advertising, they are available only to premium subscribers to the platforms.

The launch of ABC1 in the UK means that Disney now operates or has investments in more than 109 channels in 81 countries with a monthly reach in excess of 82 million viewers.

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