Telewest ready to swing axe

UK cable operators, including the market leader, Telewest, have launched a wide-ranging review of their pay-TV programming, aimed at removing under-performing channels to make room for new services in the autumn, writes Mathew Horsman.

According to industry sources, negotiations are also under way to reduce the amount paid by cable companies to programmers who have not hit performance targets. Among the channels being asked to reduce their charges are CNN, the US all-news network, and some of the channels in the Flextech stable, including Family.

The inventory clean-up will give cable operators greater capacity to carry new services, including a 24-hour weather channel, the Sega games channel, and a collection of new services from Granada Sky Broadcasting, the joint venture owned by Granada, the media and leisure giant, and BSkyB, the satellite broadcaster.

Granada plans to launch five new programming strands on satellite from October. They include a greatest hits channel, Men and Motoring, as well as a lifestyle strand.

Cable is now growing faster than satellite in the UK, prompting greater interest in securing cable carriage for new services. There are believed to about 15 new channels seeking cable distribution - far more than can be accommodated currently.

But plans to introduce digital services, perhaps by early 1998, will provide as many as 150 channels through the cable network, industry insiders predict.