Sky to carry more Desmond channels

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The Independent Online

Richard Desmond, the publisher of the Daily Express, is planning to launch six new adult television channels on BSkyB's satellite platform.

The expansion of Mr Desmond's adult entertainment interest reinforces the extent to which his empire is boosted by profits from his sex channels and his link up with BSkyB, whose dominant shareholder is Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Northern & Shell, the private holding company for Mr Desmond's media interests, already has seven pornographic channels available on BSkyB. These have proved to be extremely lucrative and last year contributed £17m of the £60m in operating profits that Northern & Shell made.

BSkyB's digital platform offers some 22 adult channels, such as Private Blue and Playboy TV. Satellite viewers pay the suppliers directly for the channels, although BSkyB gets paid for each subscription or pay-per-view order for its encryption services.

The channel providers also pay BSkyB £35,000 a year for each station to be listed on the satellite company's electronic programme guide. BSkyB receives 75p for each pay-per-view purchase.

The new Northern & Shell channels, which licences are being applied for, will seek to be less niche and less explicit than the "Red Hot" family of stations and its Television X: The Fantasy channel currently available on satellite. Some of these channels are also available on cable TV, via Telewest or NTL.

The six existing Northern & Shell late night channels on Sky include Red Hot Girl, Red Hot Amateur, Red Hot Films, Red Hot Euro, Red Hot Wives and Red Hot UK Talent. For some of the shows, viewers are asked to send in home videos.

Mr Desmond's top shelf magazines include titles such as Asian Babes, Skinny & Wriggly and Mega Boobs. These are much less profitable than the television interests, making £2m last year. Mr Desmond has tried and failed to sell the magazines since buying the Express, group two years ago.

Northern & Shell insiders said the new channels would be at the "glamour" end of the market, offering softer material that is aimed at couples.

Mr Murdoch appears to be one of the few media moguls that Mr Desmond admires and with whom he enjoys a good relationship.

Other media barons are routinely vilified in the pages of the Daily Express and Sunday Express, especially Lord Black of Crossharbour, the chairman of The Daily Telegraph publisher Hollinger, and Lord Rothermere, the chairman of the publisher of the Daily Mail.

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