Fanfare Launch Pushed Back, Again

Fanfare: The Classical Music Channel is now targeting its launch for late in the third quarter or possibly the fourth quarter, officials said last week.

The digital-cable network-which is being created by public broadcaster WETA-TV in Washington, D.C.-has now delayed its debut twice. The service's original launch date was last Thanksgiving, but that was pushed back until the second quarter of this year.

In the latest development, Fanfare's launch was postponed once again, according to Cathy Rasenberger, president of Rasenberger Media. She is handling affiliate sales and marketing for Fanfare, which has been negotiating to secure funding for its debut.

Former Colony Communications Inc. chief and Food Network founder Jack Clifford, chairman of Fanfare's board, has spent more than one year trying to line up financing for the network, which has been described as an MTV: Music Television for classical music.

"He's still very much involved," Rasenberger said. "We are very close to finalizing all of our investors. We are talking to all of the obvious strategic partners. And we are doing strategic distribution deals."

Clifford and a group of investors have reportedly provided initial funding for Fanfare. But the network is looking for additional financing from MSOs, as well as programming companies. Rasenberger wouldn't comment on how much money Fanfare is trying to raise.

Fanfare and AT & T Broadband's Headend in the Sky are ironing out the final details of a deal that would place the network on a new transponder the digital platform is launching, pod 13. Because that new HITS transponder will launch in July or August, before Fanfare's rollout, the network won't be on it initially.

Fanfare is also talking with Time Warner Cable about a potential slot on that MSO's digital platform, AthenaTV.

Rasenberger added that she is also negotiating with a number of so-called independent digital suites of networks regarding Fanfare.

"We're trying to find the right neighborhood," she said, referring to the other networks Fanfare would share space with on one of those independent transponders.

WETA first unveiled plans for Fanfare at the Western Show in December 1998. A year ago, Ralph Malvik, WETA's executive director of cable relations, was named Fanfare's general manager.

Malvik and Clifford couldn't be reached for comment.

Fanfare will air music videos, news and interviews. Dick Cavett is still on board to serve as the network's "signature host," according to Rasenberger.