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Viacom prepares to launch VH2

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Viacom is to launch a new lads’ music channel provisionally called VH2.

It is understood that the musicdominated television station will be aimed predominantly at 16 to 34-year-old men and sit alongside Viacom’s existing VH1, VH1 Classic and MTV stations on the Sky Digital platform.

Although details about the new channel launch are still under wraps, Viacom is understood to be waiting for the final sign-off for a carriage agreement on Sky and the new channel could launch as early as the beginning of 2004.

Viacom already operates VH1, VH1 Classic, MTV UK & Ireland, MTV Dance, MTV Base, MTV Hits, and MTV2 in the UK.

Sources at the broadcaster said this week it is considering a number of different plans for a new station launch, but that plans for the new project were still in their infancy and a definite target audience for the new station has not yet been decided.

News of the relaunch follows a revamp of the VH1 station earlier this year and the introduction of films to the channel’s schedules.

Viacom announced in April that it was broadening the programming on the channel, which was in part a response to the launch of Sky’s new music channels Amp, Flaunt and Scuzz earlier this year. VH1 now broadcasts at least one movie a week.

At the time, VH1 general manager Sally Habbershaw said: “We want to become commentators on popular culture, not just music. By broadening our appeal, we hope to continue to build our ratings.”

News of the impending launch of a new channel aimed predominantly at young men fits with Viacom’s strategy for broadening both its channel portfolio and its programming schedule.

However, other broadcasters have tried and failed to tap into the lads’ market using TV stations.

Turner launched CNX a year ago targeting young men with animation and kung-fu movies, but the station was recently rebranded as Toonami and is now aimed at a much younger audience.

The music channel landscape is becoming increasingly cluttered.

There are now in excess of 20 music channels on Sky Digital – Viacom’s channels compete with Emap’s seven TV stations including Smash Hits and the Box, plus Sky’s new channels and a number of smaller operators such as ChartshowTV and Channel U.

A Sky spokesman could not confirm the launch of the new channel this week, but said: “We are always talking to channel providers about new content for our customers.