SWelcom's Movie Channel and CANAL+ has decided to start broadcasting their new terrestrial digital pay-TV services on August 27, 2001, initially presenting a selection of forthcoming programmes free of charge to viewers. The decision on the start date for full pay-TV digital broadcasting will be taken later.
Under a statement issued by the Finnish Telecommunication Administration Centre during the summer, local TV channels and national pay-TV channels do not come under the 'must-carry' requirement applied to cable-TV systems. Local and pay-TV channels must agree distribution and possible payment separately with cable-TV companies. Distribution fees charged by cable-TV companies could have a substantial effect on the financial basis for pay-TV operations, as more than half of the 1.5 million TV households within the area that will be covered by digital-TV transmissions by the end of 2001 are connected to cable-TV systems.
Given this situation, SWelcom, CANAL+, and WSOY are unable to commit to starting pay-TV activities at this stage. As a result, WSOY will not start operations at its WSOY Learning Channel (Koulukanava) as planned. SWelcom and CANAL+ will decide whether to continue transmissions by the end of November. Digital transmissions by SWelcom's Channel Four Finland will start as planned on August 27, 2001. SWelcom is also a shareholder in the new digital sports channel, Urheilukanava.
A further problem is caused by the fact that, at the time of the launch on August 27, 2001, no digital-TV sets or set-top boxes matching the full Finnish system specification will be available. Existing units will be incapable of accessing the electronic programme guide, digital super-teletext services, or other interactive services. Subtitling will also probably have to be handled using temporary solutions. An additional difficulty is that units intended for cable-TV households will not work in terrestrial-TV households, and vice versa. WSOY to launch its Opit eLearning service on the Internet
Due to the limitations concerning cable-TV distribution and the substantial delay in the delivery of digital-TV sets and set-top boxes capable of handling interactive applications, WSOY has concluded that it is not in a position to launch its WSOY Learning Channel. WSOY will, however, launch its Internet-based eLearning service, Opit, an interactive environment featuring learning materials and services designed for students attending comprehensive schools, colleges, and vocational institutions.
Unless the Education Channel starts operations by August 31, 2001, its license will lapse. As and when the operating conditions for digital-TV services improve significantly, WSOY will consider offering Opit services via digital-TV and applying for a new license.
For further information, please contact:
SWelcom: Merja Rinne on +358 107 07 7090
Canal+: Jarkko Nordlund on + 358 9 4133 2321
WSOY: Mikko Laine on +358 400 806 903
Investor Relations and Group Communications