Networks stretching for a niche

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Over the years, cable operators have been in a channel lock, often unable to offer more than 54 channels on average per household. Now, opportunities will be opening up for new and emerging networks as cable operators expand their plan, says Scott Broyles, National Cable Television Association public affairs director. "Cable operators have spent $20.6 billion since the Telecom Act of 1996 -- with another $7 billion projected for 2000 -- to rebuild, expand [and] offer more programming," says Mr. Broyles. This year alone, more than 50 cable networks have notified NCTA about expected launch plans. The following lists just a few networks you may be seeing soon.

* AMC's American Pop! -- From Pez dispensers to TV dinners, this network hopes to capitalize on 20th century pop culture beginning first quarter 2000.

* B-Movie Channel -- Forget about the blockbusters. Starting Dec. 17, this network will air original and classic second-rate "B" films from around the world.

* CrimeBeat -- Billed as "All crime all the time," programming highlights for this early 2000 launch include "Cop Talk" and "FBI Case Files."

* Fanfare -- This classical musical channel will discuss the genre through news, interviews and performances beginning second quarter 2000.

* Museum Channel -- From children's museums to The Smithsonian, this network hopes to showcase 35,000 museums worldwide starting next fall.

* Puppy Channel -- No talk, all puppies at play accompanied by instrumental music will frolick into homes by fourth quarter 2000.

* Senior Citizens Television Network -- Network is for seniors, with programming from health, finance, companionship, travel, crafts and news categories.

* Si TV -- A Latino-themed cable network in English plans to feature comedy, talk and dance shows, as well as short films and sports in 2000.

* The Theatre Channel -- Avant garde, ethnic and children's theater performances from US and international theaters will air on this network by third quarter 2000.

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