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Hustler Channel launches

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Independent Broadcasters
Video On Demand
OTTAWA - An Ottawa entrepreneur is attempting to establish a television niche that hasn't been tried in Canada in 20 years: A Canadian content adult channel.

Digital category two Hustler Channel was very quietly launched June 30th, 2003 by Ottawa-based 10 Network with Shaw Communications. Carried both on Shaw Cable's digital offering and Star Choice, The Hustler Channel will have "a focus on more premieres and greater variety," says 10 Network's web site, which speaks mostly to BDUs, not consumers.

"10's Hustler Channel offers up to 20 premieres and over 40 other erotic films per month. Our programming strategy offers your subscribers more choice and a greater menu of options. Meeting all federal regulations, 10's Hustler Channel offers a line-up of programming in 8-hour blocks, 24 hours per day," it continues.

The company has also launched two other category two digi-nets, 10 Platinum - which "features the highest quality movies in addition to weekly specials including 'Anything You Want', where viewers select the programming, and 'Just The Two of Us', for discriminating couples," explains the web site - and Canal Plaisir, a French-language adult channel.

The company suggests pricing of $14.95 per customer per month for a single channel, $24.95 for two and $30.95 for all three. The company is also offering a mini-pay package of six or eight hour blocks of any one of 10 Network's three channels for $8.95 a month.

The company says it plans to launch three more channels in the future.

"10 offers cable operators the right product to access the most lucrative, untapped niche left in cable specialty programming. The launch of similar services in U.S. cable systems over the past few years has resulted in significant increases in per-sub-per-month revenues, but without an appreciable drop in PPV revenues," says the site.

Stateside, Playboy Enterprises owns most of the adult or erotic channels under the Playboy, Spice, and Hot brand names. In Canada, Playboy is the only full time adult channel.

When contacted today by www.cablecastermagazine.com, 10 Network's president Stuart Duncan declined to elaborate on his company's plans, confirming only that all three channels have launched and that they are available to Canadian distributors right now. As well, he has entered a licensing agreement with Larry Flynt's Hustler Magazine for use of the name but Duncan declined to comment further on the magazine's involvement.

Hustler is generally regarded as a far more racy and explicit magazine than Playboy and judging from the 10 web site, which says "to meet our customers' expectations, our programming is more revealing than the competition's traditional approach," Canadian subscribers might be able to expect a more explicit style from The Hustler Channel than from Playboy TV.

However, 10's web site cautions - perhaps remembering the firestorm of publicity Bell ExpressVu endured over two years ago when it was exposed on CBC's fifth estate as carrying some channels containing pretty hard core, sexually violent and likely illegal programming - "we will not, however, under any circumstance, broadcast scenes which border on illegal behavior. You will never see violence in conjunction with sexual activity, incest, sadism, sadomasochism, forced bondage, male homosexuality, drugs, scenes of non-consenting adults, or scenes of sexual activity with minors. Although our films contain explicit and graphic language, you will never hear sexist, racist, or morally offensive dialogue."

Duncan's company's history has been as a Canadian distributor of adult videos and movies. According to the 10 Network web site, it boasts a library of 7,000 titles. However, the company plans more than just adult films for its channels as it says it will add talk shows, phone-in shows, and educational and counseling programs.

As for other large Canadian BDUs, "we do expect to carry them but we haven't finalized our agreement," said a Rogers Cable spokesperson, while a Bell ExpressVu official told www.cablecastermagazine.com the company has no current plans to launch the channels. Calls to Cogeco Cable and Vid�otron made late Monday were not immediately returned.

The Hustler Channel et all would be the first CanCon adult channels to try and compete with Playboy TV in Canada in over 20 years (and by regulation, 35% of the content shown on digital category two specialty services must be Canadian). Neither Spice nor Hot have gained access to the eligible satellite list, despite attempts by Canadian BDUs to add them. The Commission most recently turned down an application for Spice in the summer of 2001.

Back in 1983, the initial owners of pay service First Choice Canada attempted a made-in-Canada approach to adult content in a partnership with Playboy Enterprises but it was not successful, for a number of reasons.

However, these new channels are simply taking advantage of customers' appetite for this type of programming. Besides the Playboy Channel, The Movie Network offers several adult films and TV shows per week, SexTV: The Channel has a large range of adult fare and cable companies offering video on demand have reported that about 60% of their buys are adult content.
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