Myhren to Helm New Scandinavian Net

Cable-industry veteran Trygve Myhren is leading themanagement team that is set this week to launch The Scandinavian Channel, a premiumservice that will offer programming from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden forU.S. audiences.

The Denver-based channel will also have a Web site, whichdebuts along with the video channel this Friday (Oct. 15).

The a la carte premium service, which will be priced at$9.95 per month, has one corporate-affiliation deal so far, with Comcast Corp. But talksare also in progress with AT&T Broadband & Internet Services, MediaOne Group Inc.and Time Warner Cable, officials said.

Myhren is chairman of Scandinavian Channel Inc., whichhopes to cater to more than 16 million people of Scandinavian descent who live in NorthAmerica.

"I've recognized the interest that Scandinaviansliving in North America have in their heritage," said Myhren, who is of Norwegiandescent. He added that the World Wide Web has made the success of niche channels morelikely, using the cross-promotion that can take place between the site and the videochannel.

A past chairman of the National Cable TelevisionAssociation, Myhren is currently president of Myhren Media Inc., a private-investmentfirm. He is also the past president of Providence Journal Co., where he was at the helmwhen Food Network was launched, and he is former chairman of defunct MSO AmericanTelevision & Communications Corp.

Distribution for The Scandinavian Channel is being handledby International Channel, which is one of its partners and which also handles affiliatesales for nine similar premium networks, such as Italian RAI International and French TV5.

Raoul De Soto, vice president and general manager ofInternational Channel Networks, said that while The Scandinavian Channel has a corporatedeal with Comcast, "That only give us a hunting license. It's up to us to pursuedeals on a local-system level."

The Scandinavian Channel plans to target North Americanmarkets with large Scandinavian populations where digital cable is available or rollingout, such as Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco and Minneapolis, according to vice presidentof marketing Brad Halverson.

Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago are AT&T Broadbandmarkets, while Minneapolis is MediaOne territory and St. Paul, Minn., is served by TimeWarner.

Earlier this year, The Scandinavian Channel conducted focusgroups in several of those cities about the programming and what price points people wouldbe willing to pay, Halverson said, and $9.95 was found to be acceptable.

Under its business model, with the financial support of itsprogramming partners, The Scandinavian Channel will only need 30,000 to 40,000 subscribersto hit black ink, according to Myhren. "We have a low break-even point," hesaid.

The channel will present new programming daily in asix-hour block, which will be repeated four times each 24 hours.

Each block will have content from all five countries. Withthe exception of news and current affairs, all programs are presented with Englishsubtitles. A 30-minute daily slice of the network's day is now seen on InternationalChannel.

The channel is acquiring most of its programming from thefive largest national Scandinavian broadcasters: Danmarks Radio, Yleis-radio,Rikisutvarpid, Norsk Rikringkasting and Sveriges Television.

The Scandinavian Channel's partners include Myhren,the five broadcasters and their five countries, Norwegian communications giant Telenor,International Channel and private investors.

The channel plans to work with some of the 600Scandinavian-American political and social community groups on the grassroots level tobuild its distribution, Halverson said.

The network is also in talks with DirecTV Inc. and EchoStarCommunications Corp. about carriage. That would be good for the service, as many Americansof Scandinavian descent live in rural areas that can't get cable, such as areas ofthe Dakotas, Halverson said.

The channel is the brainchild of senior vice president ofprogramming Steinar Hybertsen. Myhren got involved in the project in late 1998. Thechannel's CEO is Dean Ericson, a veteran of MSOs such as ATC.