Upfront: News for December 1997

December 1, 1997


The U.K. regulator ITC has proposed revisions to Channel 4′s commercial broadcaster licence which would increase the amount of required original programming. The proposal calls for an increase of in-house production to 70% in primetime and 60% overall. In 1996, 53% of C4′s total programming was in-house.


At the Summit of French-Speaking Nations, Canal France International announced a new deal which will see its reach greatly enhanced in the Vietnamese market. CFI currently provides programming to ten television stations in the Asian market.

Two new broadcasters in Ho Chi Minh City and Haiphong will benefit from the deal, with French programming developed by CFI specifically adapted to the Vietnamese market. The scrambled signal will be carried via Intelsat 704, and will be descrambled in subscriber homes to ensure signal security.

In Hanoi, CFI has signed a new agreement with vtv which will see them provide coverage of 64 World Cup soccer matches from the 1998 tournament. VTV and CFI have been in partnership since their first agreement was inked eight years ago.


Non-fiction programming and docs figure prominently on the first digital channels licensed for nation-wide broadcast in Germany by The Media Council of the Bavarian New Media Authority (BLM).

The four channels – Planet, SeaSons, Cine Classics 1 and Cine Classics 2, all owned by Ismaning-based MultiThžmatiques Germany (a subsidiary of the France-based Multithžmatiques Group) – have been airing on a trial licence in Germany since June. In September, in the interest of increasing choice and competition with the introduction of digital tv, the German Media Authority Conference stated that new services, whichever platform they use, must also be available via cable. To that end, Alain Fux, head of MultiThžmatiques Germany, says nationwide cable coverage is the next objective. The company has already been allocated its own hyperband channel as well as channels in several of the dvd pilot projects across Germany.

While Cine 1 and 2 air cinema classics, Planet airs over 800 docs a year and SeaSons is devoted exclusively to programs around hunting, fishing and nature. MultiThžmatiques is planning to add three new channels (Jimmy, Cyber TV and Motormania) to their German offerings in Spring 1998.


Gay Entertainment Television, a New York company founded in 1992 by Marvin Schwan, is about to roll out a new service across the U.S. Launching in April 1998, the network is cautiously ambitious.

Unable to independently take to the airwaves immediately, the service will channel-share until it is established. As part of their licence, cable operators in the U.S. are required to lease access time to anyone with programming. For the first three years, Gay Entertainment Television will run six hours a week on 65 cable systems in 20 American markets, reaching an audience of 20 million homes. The service plans to eventually go international with a 24-hour programming wheel.

The network will provide educational and entertainment programming with a gay slant – from talk shows to movie and video reviews. In The Life, the only gay lifestyle program currently on air in the U.S. will make the switch to Gay Entertainment TV from public television. They also plan to acquire two hours of programming from gay producers every week.

Registered on October 1, Gay Entertainment Television expects a green-light for a public offering soon, looking to raise us$10 million. Schwan says the years it took to put the project together, not to mention the 150-page proposal, was worth it. ‘We’re making two firsts: we’re the first openly gay company on the stock exchange; and we’re the first gay channel.’


Clearwater, Florida-based Multi-Media Home Video, the new home video label from Distribution Video & Audio, has struck up new distribution alliances with a number of U.S. companies. dv&a services over 3,200 video retailers, 2,500 educational institutions, 450 supermarkets, and 20 national mass merchants in the U.S.

With L.A.-based direct-response and marketing firm Marketingworks, mmhv will be handling sell-through for additional titles on the heels of their successful first joint-venture, Rescue 911 World’s Greatest Rescues. Additional titles include Street Smart Kids, Your Favorite Cigar, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and Extreme Disasters.

mmhv acquired home video rights to L.A.-based 1130 Entertainment’s theatrical release Last Home Run. MMHV already reps 1130 titles like Tim Allen’s Little Project and The Roswell Report: Case Closed.

With Andrew Solt’s L.A.-based Sofa Entertainment (Imagine: John Lennon), mmhv has a deal to distribute A Really Big Show, The Best of Ed Sullivan.

For Palm Beach-based Universal Health Communications – one of the world’s largest producers of health, wellness and fitness home videos and manager of one of the world’s largest health video libraries – MMHV will distribute the company’s catalogue of over 1,500 health and safety videos.

Upcoming releases for Multi-Media Home Video include Crime Safe Kids, a home-video guide to child safety, available in sell-though in January. MMHV also holds distribution rights to over 2,600 nostalgia titles from Video Yesteryear in Connecticut.


New York’s Archive Films is now representing the County of Los Angeles’ library of promotional and training films from the 60s and 70s. Topics include alcoholism, foster parents, civil unrest, and campy titles such as Fish Dreams and The Secret Love of Sandra Blaine – the tragic story of a bored housewife who turns to alcohol. Also included in the collection is a long list of PSA’s and Los Angeles-related material, including news clips and construction footage. Archive Film is currently in the process of restoring and cataloguing the material.


-London-based Explore International has hired 29-year-old Jennifer Buzzelli as senior sales executive, responsible for the licensing of branded strands and branded programming blocks in territories including the U.S., Scandinavia, Benelux and Ireland. Buzzelli had been with National Geographic Television in Washington, DC since 1992.

Also at Explore, Nada Cirjanic, formerly of the syndication department at MTV Europe, has been hired as sales executive for Central and Eastern European and former Soviet Union territories.

-Diva Katherine Battle graced the November 24th International Emmy gala in NYC as presenter for the Founders Award, which went to Jac Venza, director of cultural and arts programs at Thirteen/wnet. Hearst president and ceo Frank Bennack, Jr. presented the Directorate Award to Kieter Stolte, ZDF’s director general.


November saw Canal+ Poland hit the 200,000 subscriber mark, a performance which is well ahead of forecasted growth. The driving force behind the rapid growth appears to be agreements with the Hollywood majors for feature film rights, and the recent capture of exclusive Polish first-division soccer rights until the 2002/03 season.

Since Canal+ Poland received its license on November 23, 1994, it has become the second largest investor in films in that country.


At this year’s IDA awards, blockbuster filmmaker extraordinaire Steven Spielberg (The Lost World, Schindler’s List) announced the creation of Visual History Films, a production arm of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. Beginning in the spring of 1998, Visual History Films will begin creating docs based on the testimonials of Holocaust survivors. The Shoah Foundation has over 36,000 survivor testimonials from 48 countries, in 29 languages. Spielberg was honored at this years idas with the Amicus Award for his work in visually preserving the testimonies of survivors.

Spielberg wasn’t alone in claiming accolades for his work. The ida winners in the feature category are Donka: The X-Ray of an African Hospital, from Les Films de la Passerelle, and Waco: The Rules of Engagement by Dan and Amy Sommer Gifford. A special jury award for excellence goes to Albert Elings and Eugenie Jansen for Scary Man.

Love Story, part of the bbc’s Timewatch series, took the prize for best single program in a strand. Blaine Baggett was awarded for best series under 12 episodes for The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century. Christina Craton and Tim Schwab took top spot for their short The Burning Barrel.

In Upfront:
-News for December 1997
-Piloting Cafe copros
-For the record

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.