CBS to Launch Six New CBS Branded Cable Channels in the UK

CBS Corp. is set to launch six new cable channels in the U.K., following a deal with Liberty Media owned Chellomedia.

CBS Studios International, the company's international program licensing arm, said in a statement Sep. 14, it has formed a 50/50 joint venture with Chellomedia to rebrand six existing cable services with channels called: Zone Romantica, Zone Thriller, Zone Horror and Zone Reality, Zone Horror+1 and Zone Reality+1.

The channels will be given a boost from CBS' programming catalogue as well as CBS marketing. Shows such as Dynasty and the original Star Trek will be headed to the cable services. The cable channels are seen on News Corp.'s Sky and other outlets including Virgin Media and FreeSat. The channels are ad supported.

The company will now form a new board, with CBS and Chello representatives, according to the release. "The CBS brand is recognized around the world for quality, both as a production studio and as a network," said Armando Nuñez, president of CBS Studios International, in the press statement. "This venture opens a new distribution outlet for our vast library of content, and complements our strong ongoing licensing of programming in the UK and around the world."

Liberty Media's Global Chief Strategy Officer Shane O'Neill, who is also president of Chellomedia, added, "The JV with CBS will significantly enhance our UK channel portfolio, create a clear proposition for advertisers, and above all create essential TV destinations where British viewers will enjoy a rich choice of popular programming from CBS."

The move is novel way of getting CBS a toe-hold in the European cable market, beyond its existing program sales operations. It could also signal a change of heart for CBS which has long shunned cable in favor of spending on digital acquisitions such as CNET. This U.K. joint venture might be the first indication that CBS is open to cable acquisitions which are increasingly popular. Speaking at the Bank of America-Merrill Lynch media conference Sept. 10, Moonves played down the impact of cable, defending the broadcast business model.
Following a question about cable companies increasing their spending on programming, Moonves said: "Cable companies don't take away from us...They have two or three original shows, we have 19 hours on every week between news, reality comedy and dramas. It's sort of a different ball game."

On Monday, a spokesman for CBS would say only, "We're always interested in content, and in international expansion."