ExpressVu to launch 42 new digital channels

Toronto - Direct-to-home (DTH) satellite service Bell ExpressVu has finalized its list of new digital specialty services it will launch to its nearly 900,000 customers on September 7.

The category one must-carries ExpressVu will have, with their managing partners, are:

The Biography Channel: Rogers Media
Book TV: Chum Television
Connect (for teens): Craig Broadcasting
Country Canada (rural TV): Corus Entertainment
Discovery Health: Alliance Atlantis
The Documentary Channel: Corus Entertainment
Fashion Television Channel: Chum Television
i Channel (formerly the Issues Channel): Stornoway Communications
Independent Film Channel: Alliance Atlantis
Men TV: CanWest Global
Mystery: CanWest Global
One: Body, Mind & Spirit: VisionTV
PrideVision (gay and lesbian): Headline Media
Reseau Info Sports (French headline sports): Bell Globemedia
Tech TV: Rogers Media
Travel: Bell Globemedia
WTSN (women's sports): Bell Globemedia

The category twos, with their managing partners, are:

Animal Planet: Bell Globemedia
BBC Canada: Alliance Atlantis
BPM: TV (beats per minute, a dance music channel): Stornoway Communications
Court TV Canada (formerly the Law & Order Channel): Chum Television
DejaView (classic TV): CanWest Global
Discovery Civilization: Bell Globemedia
Discovery Kids: Corus Entertainment
Drive-In Classics: Chum Television
EdgeTV (alternative music): Corus Entertainment
ESPN Classic Canada (classic sports): Bell Globemedia
Fox Sports World: CanWest Global
Lone Star (westerns): CanWest Global
Moviola (short films): Channel Zero Inc.
National Geographic Channel: Alliance Atlantis
The NHL Network: Bell Globemedia
Raptors/NBA.comTV: Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment
Sex TV: Chum Television
SCREAM: Corus Entertainment
Showcase Action: Alliance Atlantis
Showcase Diva (romance): Alliance Atlantis
Xtreme Sports: CanWest Global

Last week, Bell ExpressVu submitted the above transponder configuration list on the Nimiq 1 satellite to Canadian cable operators, which may use them as their signal source for the new digital specialties launching this fall. Only Shaw Cablesystems and its sister company Star Choice, which have committed to a total of 28 new channels - including all of the category ones plus seven from Alliance Atlantis - have announced their intentions for the fall launch. The companies have made no announcement as yet about which channels will round out their new lineups.

Those counting will see the above list is only 38 channels long. ExpressVu is also launching two of its own channels, dubbed TRN Vu and TRN ODDS. TRN Vu is a switched-video service that provides coverage of horse racing tracks around the continent while TRN ODDS is a stock-ticker-like, alphanumeric service that will provide updated odds on the races. ExpressVu already carries four TRN (The Racing Network) chanels.

Another of the channels launching is ARTV, the French-language arts channel which is neither a category one nor a two. It is a must-carry on analog in French markets and available for digital distribution elsewhere.

The final channel ExpressVu will be carrying is TV Land. Craig Broadcasting, owners of the Connect category one license, is reported to be in negotiations with Viacom to turn the Craig category two digital license for a classic television channel into TV Land Canada. However, any deal has yet to be finalized so it is unclear whether or not ExpressVu plans to carry the American version at launch or Craig's potential Canadian hybrid. Wayne Sterloff of Craig Specialty declined to comment.

Of the notable category two channels that will launch, but not on ExpressVu, are Leafs TV and MSNBC Canada. Thanks to National Hockey League rules that prevent the Toronto Maple Leafs from distributing their television channel beyond the team's geographic area, the regional license can't be carried at this time on a national distributor such as ExpressVu. As for MSNBC, industry sources say ExpressVu and Rogers Media (which owns the license along with Shaw Communications) could not reach a carriage agreement.

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