Viacom is ramping up its HD offering in Europe with the launch of Nickelodeon HD and the rollout of MTVHD to further countries. Nickelodeon HD will be launched first on the BSkyB satellite platform in the UK from October 5. The channel is expected to launch in other international markets such as Russia, Poland, Israel and Brazil in 2011. The launch of the standalone HD service will also see MTV remove Nickelodeon weekend programming slot from MTVNHD.
MTVNHD has expanded significantly since its launch in 2008, and now reaches roughly 7m households in close to 30 countries. Viacom's MTV Networks International division has also recently launched an HD version of its entertainment channel Comedy Central, which is currently available only in the UK.
Nickelodeon HD will be the first 24 hour children's HD channel to launch in Europe. Key competitor Disney's Disney Cinemagic HD channel falls within the premium movie channel category, and incurs an additional monthly subscription fee. Nickelodeon HD, on the other hand, will appear within Sky's HD package, and will be made available to all Sky subscribers taking both the children's pack and subscribing to the HD service. As a result, we estimate that at launch around 2m subscribers will have access to the Nickelodeon HD service.
Channel groups have traditionally tended to adopt a 'wait and watch' approach with regards to HD, and more so for childrens channels, in a bid to estimate whether there is a sufficiently sized market for a standalone service. All eyes will now be on Nickelodeon - gauging whether a standalone HD service does make a perceivable difference to the 4-14 age group. Also under the scanner will be Nickelodeon HD's ability to raise additional advertising revenue (as compared to its SD version) and whether there will be any uplift to carriage revenues it receives from Sky, which owns a minority stake in the Nickelodeon-branded channels in the UK.
The launch of Nickelodeon HD is likely to mean the other children's majors will launch their own standalone HD channels. Key among these would be Disney, which could possibly look at rolling out HD versions of either its Disney XD or Disney Channel brands. Turner's Cartoon Network HD, which is currently available in the U.S, could also be launched in the EMEA market.
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