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24-hour Russian Business TV debuts in May

Russia's first 24-hour cable channel dedicated to business news will go live after the May holidays, RBC said Thursday after securing $15 million to launch the project.

Through RBC TV, RosBusinessConsulting hopes to parlay its news agency's success into a Russian version of popular financial news networks CNBC and Bloomberg.

The channel will fill the gap in business coverage left by Russia's main television networks, RBC general director Yury Rovensky said.

"This channel will be about Russian business and for Russian business," Rovensky said, adding that business professionals and government officials will be RBC TV's target audience.

The country's big networks dedicate less than 1 percent of their air time to business coverage, he said. Rovensky estimated that the first year of operations will cost $30 million to $40 million.

It has already raised $15 million, RBC announced Wednesday; RBC itself will provide the channel with $10 million, and the other $5 million will be sought through a private debt placement with Western investors.

RBC expects advertising income to cover the rest.

"We expect to return the investments by the end of the second year of operation," Rovensky said.

RBC's revenues from advertising on its news web site totaled $14 million in 2002, he added. The television ad market is considered far more lucrative than the Internet market.

RBC TV's daily programming will include 18 hours of live coverage news, trends, analysis of current events and interviews with market experts. Some of these will be rerun to fill the remaining six hours of air time.

RBC has negotiated with cable and satellite providers Kosmos-TV, NTV Plus, Comcor TV and Divo TV to broadcast the channel via their networks in Moscow and in St. Petersburg.

NTV Plus will bundle the channel with its service packages in St. Petersburg, the only city where it will be broadcast on an open frequency, allowing residents with only a TV antenna to tune in.

Kosmos-TV and NTV Plus both said they were still in negotiations with RBC.

To prepare for the May launch, RBC has brought in CNBC Europe specialists to train its staff of 300, hired from investment banks for their business knowledge, not their television expertise.

"We're going to rely on this newly trained staff," Rovensky said. "These are people who know what's going on in Russian business today."

The channel's production studios are located inside RBC's main building in southwest Moscow, with a studio downtown for live interviews.

RBC TV is part of RBC Holding, together with the RBC news agency and software maker RBC Soft.

(The Moscow Times 07.iii.03)

 
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