Soft porn channels planned for cable network

MATHEW HORSMAN

Stand by for the Adam and Eve channel on cable television.

As many as six new channels - at least two of them soft porn - may be added to Britain's embryonic cable network in the coming year, according to industry sources. The two adult channels will be on a pay-per-view basis.

A 24-hour weather channel is also in development, similar to those running in North America, featuring regular bulletins and weather information from around the world.

These will join three channels already announced, including Disney, the US entertainment service that has been a huge hit in America, and Playboy, a mix of interviews, adult movies and sex and lifestyle features patterned on the magazine.

Disney will also be available on satellite as part of pay-TV services offered by BSkyB, 40 per cent-owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

A sixth entrant, dubbed Brand X, will target the 12-20 year-olds, with a mix of music, entertainment and educational programming.

Backers of the channels are in talks with individual cable operators to obtain distribution. As cable expands in the UK, it is becoming harder to get channel capacity.

In its earliest days, the industry helped to finance broadcasters in order to secure cable-exclusive programming. But as the networks are built out, and as penetration rates slowly increase, cable operators have found it easier to bargain for better terms from broadcasters.

Long-term supply of programming from satellite broadcasters, particularly Sky, has also increased the attractiveness of cable television.

Last month, Sky confirmed for the first time that it was adding viewers on cable at a faster rate than through direct-to-home satellite dishes.

There are now more than 1 million cable subscribers in Britain, with that figure forecast to rise to about 7 million by the end of the decade.

The Cable Communications Association estimates that the cable industry will have spent pounds 10bn by 2000 on network development, creating 25,000 jobs over the next four years.

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