Monday, March 29, 2010

European Entertainment: Cable & Theme Channels

by Isabella Isbiroglu


Papathanassopoulos’ book European Television in the Digital Age, Chapter 7 is entitled “From the General and National to the Particular and Local.” This chapter centralizes around the invention of the thematic channel and its importance in European television. Papathanassopoulos explores the history of thematic channel in a strictly informative way.

A thematic channel is a channel that has a target audience that it caters to. A thematic channel only has a certain range of television programs, therefore narrowing the audience’s chooses as to what kind of programming they want to watch. First, Papathanassopoulos explains that the digital technology in Europe allowed thematic channels to target more levels of segmentation. He explains that today we can choose from an array of different specialized channels included sports, history, home shopping, etc.



The thematic channel was a US invention that illuminated much success even though there were smaller audiences per program. Papathanassopoulos explains, “When there is a very limited number of television channels and therefore programm diet, the main bulk of the viewers will be attracted by mass-appeal programming.” He uses the example of HBO’s success, which set a precedent for limiting the range of programs offered. After the success of narrowcasting, Europe followed the US’s example. Canal Plus is considered to be Europe’s first thematic channel. Europe though faced some difficulties. 1) Most of their programming was imported 2) Some of the thematic channels were not restricted themselves to their genre. For example, Deutsches Sport Fernsehen is a German sports channel, but they also will screen movies. 3) Language was also a slight obstacle because some European countries have more than one official language.

The text then shifts to the success of the thematic channels in Europe. There are three primary key factors as to why cable and satellite TV, especially the thematic channel as succeeded. The first reason being the addition of US networks to European television, the second being that the technology to access these thematic channels was only becoming available later on and lastly the willingness of viewers to subscribe to these channels had shifted.
Papathanassopoulos continues by explaining the development of the thematic channel. Some channels had divided themselves up to create thematic channels to target audiences. He states that the most successful channels have been those of sports, news, music and children channels. He describes some of these thematic channels in greater detail including movie channels, home shopping channels, documentary channels, religious channels, ethnic channels and adult channels.

Most of the European thematic channels above, in HD, are American influenced.

Papathanassopoulos notes the importance of acknowledging the range of channels from local, regional, and global. He notes that it is important to realize that regionalization and localization are crucial for survival in order to remain competitive. Regional programming caters to their audiences needs. Papathanassopoulos gives the example of Super Channel failing as an international channel because its programming was English-based. Local culture is essential to programming success. He adds that there are four ways to localizing production: a local language version, the use of interstitial, programming opt-outs, and the creation of the regional channel.


He adds the chapter with a summary stating that new technologies such thematic channels have been made possible with digital television. These international channels can only succeed if they cater to the needs of local regions in order to develop a positive and strong relationship with their audience. Localization is the only way these channels are going to succeed.
The author raises many great points and informs his reader very effectively. This idea is relevant today because we have many thematic channels ranging from HBO to Stars. These programs are expanding internationally and success can only be achieved when these programs tailor there shows to their international audiences. Papathanassopoulos is very clear and informative and uses specific examples to detail his main idea centralizing around the use of thematic channels.


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