Disney Thrusts ABC Foot in UK TV Door

06 August 2004

ABC Television Network, the ratings-trailing broadcaster owned by the Walt Disney Company, will launch its first foray outside the USA next month when its new ABC1 channel debuts on UK digital platform Freeview.

The platform, currently available to just four million of the UK's 24.9 million households (but growing fast) will host the Disney venture as of Monday September 27.

Touting a diet of fodder that has generally failed to wow stateside viewers -- the menu includes daytime soap General Hospital and the Tim Allen sitcom Home Improvements -- ABC1 will air for twelve hours daily, 6am to 6pm.

Disney, of course, is no stranger to British screens with a number of channels on satellite and cable platforms. But Freeview, a digital terrestrial standard, is believed by many to be the shape of things to come on the UK broadcast TV scene.

A joint venture, controlled by the BBC with participation by News Corporation's BSkyB and America's Crown Castle International, Freeview was launched little more than a year ago since when it has enjoyed near-exponential growth.

Come 2010, when the UK government plans to switch-off analogue transmissions in favour of digital, Freeview is expected to dominate the terrestrial broadcasting scene. By which time Disney/ABC will almost certainly have extended its current bridgehead into the British market.

Hypes John Hardie, managing director of Disney- branded TV for Europe, the Middle East and Africa: "The launch of the ABC brand signals the Walt Disney Company's long-term commitment to the UK. All day long, ABC1 will provide the daytime viewer with well-written, high-quality entertainment."

Disney ceo Michael Eisner and his acolytes are doubtless hoping the newcomer will enjoy greater success with the viewing public than its stateside Big Brother. Ratings-wise the network lags in fourth position among the big four US networks (CBS, NBC, Fox and ABC).

Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff