Clear Channel Launching Multicast Network

Clear Channel Television is launching a new multicast network in seven of its markets with a rotating wheel of entertainment fare, including movies, children's shows and how-to programs.

The channel, dubbed Variety TV, will air on Clear Channel stations' secondary digital channels and is expected to launch in two markets, Tulsa, Okla. and Fresno, Calif., and roll out soon after on Clear Channel-owned stations in Syracuse, N.Y., Albany, N.Y., Jacksonville, Little Rock, Ark. and Memphis, Tenn. Viewers will be able to access the channel on DTV-enabled televisions and, in some markets, through deals with the cable companies.Clear Channel is modeling the network off a multi-cast channel developed by its Salt Lake City station KTVX, called The Hive, which features locally-produced entertainment and sports fare, as well as a popular radio show filmed for TV.

While The Hive is well-received in its market, "we've learned it is very difficult for markets to create and establish the content necessary for a multicast channel all on their own," says Steve Spendlove, senior VP of Clear Channel's western region.

Over time, Spendlove says, Clear Channel hopes its stations will preempt Variety TV for more local fare. "The idea is to give them a platform to start," he says.

Variety TV will launch with blocks of shows including home and garden, how-to, cooking, family and automotive. Weekends will include movies and religious programs.

The network will be ad-supported and, at least to start, sales will be handled by the individual markets.