Associated wins cable battle

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The Independent Online
ASSOCIATED NEWSPAPERS will today reveal that it has won the contract to supply a new cable television station for London awarded by London Interconnect, the consortium made up of the six cable television companies that operate in the capital, writes Jason Nisse.

The newspaper group, whose interests include the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and a network of local papers, beat off tough competition from Mirror Group Newspapers and a joint bid from the television companies Carlton-LWT. The latter was ruled out as being too expensive and the former, whch proposed a studio-based live service, failed to convince London Interconnect that it could deliver a sufficiently upmarket service.

The details of Associated's contract will be revealed this morning, but is expected to include a news and information service as well as an entertainment element involving such programmes as a 24-hour electronic dating service.

The station is the first of up to six new channels that London Interconnect hopes to launch in an attempt to lure viewers away from British Sky Broadcasting and persuade them to choose cable television rather than satellite dishes. The channel will be available free to cable subscribers and will be funded by the cable companies and advertising.

One of the reasons London Interconnect chose Associated is the prospect of cross-promotion of the new cable service along the lines of that given by News International's titles - which include the Sun and the Sunday Times - to BSkyB's service.

Associated has said it will give the same billing in its newspapers to the new channel as it gives to existing channels.

Its victory will come as a relief to the newspaper group, which has had a patchy record of investing in broadcasting. Over the past 18 months it has seen two companies in which it had significant shareholdings - Crown Communications and Trilion - go into receivership. It also backed unsuccessful bids to win independent television franchises in the Meridian and HTV regions.

However, it has registered some success, backing Westcountry's successful franchise bid and Teletext UK in winning the commercial teletext licence.

It has also built up a 15 per cent stake in SelecTV, the independent production company that makes comedy and drama programmes such as Birds of a Feather and Lovejoy, and has a 20 per cent stake in Meridian Television.