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Cablevision's Rainbow Launching Sundance Channel in France

Cablevision becomes the latest U.S. media company to expand its overseas operations in the face of a struggling domestic market. Cablevision's programming unit Rainbow Media said today it is launching Sundance Channel internationally. It is Cablevision's first overseas channel venture.

The network will launch in France, where there is a great thirst for independent movies and documentary programming. The channel has gained distribution via a cable operator named Numericable. Sundance will initially launch as a video on demand product to 9.5 million households with a full channel rolling out later. The channel will air in English with subtitles in French.

Cablevision paid close to $500 million for Sundance Channel last May. The channel, launched in 1996 was owned by Hollywood actor Robert Redford, NBC Universal and CBS Corp. At the time NBC Universal took payment in GE shares for its 57% stake in the company, while CBS and Redford were paid in cash. Cablevision owned a block of G.E. shares following the sale of Bravo to NBC Universal.

Earlier this week, Time Warner said it had bought a 31% stake in Central European broadcaster CME, and said it would partner with CME to launch Warner Bros. branded channels in that territory.

NBC Universal and News Corp. joint venture Hulu is also out striking deals with foreign program owners to add to its high end online video offering for U.S. viewers. Following a deal announced today with Digital Rights Group, Hulu will carry U.K. programming including; Rude Tube, Queer as Folk and The Book Group.