Universal Studios teams with CLT in Poland

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WARSAW -- Universal Studios, the U.S.-based entertainment and production company, will help finance RTL7 in Poland and expand access to programming with an initial $37.5m capital investment for 50% of the new channel.

The remaining 50% is owned by the Luxembourg-based media company CLT which launched RTL7 last month. RTL7 is broadcast on EutelSat's Hotbird 1 via direct-to-home (DTH) satellite and cable transmission from studios in Luxembourg.

It can be seen by nearly 60% of Poland's DTH market and nearly 30% of Poland's total 11.8 million TV households, many of which fall into the target market of above-average income, educated, urban, aged 15-39 consumers. Technical reach could expand to 50% by the year 2000. Advertising is handled by IP Polska.

"The Polish economy is the fastest growing in Europe and the largest in central Europe, making the TV market an attractive investment opportunity," says Sandi Climan, executive VP at MCA Inc, of which Universal Pay-TV is a division. "RTL7 provides us with an entry into a rapidly developing market, while building an operational base and brand awareness for other MCA businesses."

The channel's first three weeks on the air have been a success, according to General Manager Jean Paul Hildebrandt. "We're doing well and the competition is getting nervous," he says. "Our share in Warsaw alone ranges from 3% to 5% based on sample peoplemeter results, but those figures are a bit rough."

He adds that CLT and Universal might each need to increase their respective investments to $75m to develop the station in Poland's increasingly competitive TV market, but he still expects RTL7 to break even within four to five years.

PolSat - a wholly Polish-owned terrestrial channel with 80% coverage and a 30% market share - is doing well after a shaky start in late 1994, and later this year, probably in September, Central European Media Enterprises (CME) will launch a terrestrial network in northern, southern, and possibly central Poland.

MCA Inc is a unit of Canada's Seagram Company, the international entertainment and beverage marketer.

Copyright January 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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