Disney To Launch ABC Network In U.K.

LONDON (Thursday 5th August 2005): The Walt Disney Company is to launch its ABC television network in the U.K, announcing a new addition to the multi channel world with the launch of a major new TV channel, ABC1.

ABC1, a general entertainment channel, will launch on Freeview on Monday 27th September with plans for a multi-platform roll-out. It will be the first non Disney branded channel to launch outside of the U.S.

ABC1’s schedule will focus on high quality U.S acquisitions including drama, comedy and serials, many of which have never been seen in the UK before. Once launch objectives have been achieved the channel intends to commission and invest in original UK production and to introduce a regular movie slot.

The launch schedule includes U.K. premieres of the multi Emmy award-winning soap General Hospital and the critically acclaimed Sports Night – the hit sitcom from West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin. Additional highlights include Once and Again – a ‘forty-something’ drama from the team who penned Thirty Something, the hugely popular Geena Davis Show and the U.S favourites, Home Improvement and 8 Simple Rules.

ABC1 will initially broadcast during daytime, from 6am to 6pm, with ambitions to build into a 24hr schedule. The Freeview audience currently stands at an estimated 7 million and set to grow significantly in the next two years.

The launch will be overseen by John Hardie, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Walt Disney Branded Television for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

John Hardie said; “The launch of the ABC brand signals the Walt Disney’s Company’s long term commitment to the UK. In its first phase, ABC1 will champion an underserved British audience – people who are busy at home during the day. All day long, ABC1 will provide the daytime viewer with well written, high quality entertainment.”

Notes to Editors:

Walt Disney Television International is responsible for all The Walt Disney Company’s free and pay television activities outside the U.S.A. These activities include branded and non-branded programme distribution through Buena Vista International Television (BVITV), production and broadcasting, including the development and management of Disney Channels and other media investments.

WDTV-I is renowned for its locally produced entertainment through both Disney Channels and terrestrial branded programmes. Since 1995, 25 Channels have been successfully launched worldwide and are seen in 68 countries – Disney Channel UK, Disney Channel France, Disney Channel Italy, Disney Channel Germany, Disney Channel Spain, Disney Channel Malaysia, Disney Channel Brunei, Disney Channel Singapore, Disney Channel Philippines, Disney Channel Taiwan, Disney Channel Australia, Disney Channel Latin America, Disney Channel Middle East, Disney Channel Brazil, Disney Channel Portugal, Disney Channel South Korea, Disney Channel Indonesia and Disney Channel Scandinavia. Disney Channel Japan launched in November 2003, Disney Channel New Zealand launched in December 2003 and Disney Channel Hong Kong in February 2004. Each Disney Channel provides unique quality programming specifically designed for its local audience and entirely dedicated to kids and their families.

With 94 branded shows per week in 68 countries, WDTV-I’s branded programming reaches 600 million viewers around the world each week: Diggin’ it on GMTV in the UK; Disney! on TF1 in France and Disney Clubs in all the major markets. Disney was the first US Studio to adopt a local approach to production tailoring content to specific audiences.

John Hardie is Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Walt Disney Branded Television for Europe, Middle East and Africa. In this capacity he is responsible for Disney Channel, the Disney branded timeslots on free to air broadcasters and Disney local European television production. In 2004, he will also spearhead The Walt Disney Company’s launch of a daytime entertainment channel on the Freeview DTT platform in the UK.

Disney Channel’s are available in 36 countries in the region. Each Disney Channel provides unique quality programming specifically designed for local audiences.

There are also 58 Disney branded timeslots per week in 42 countries in EMEA, with local production providing tailored programming for each country.

Prior to this, between 1997 and 2001, John Hardie was Marketing and Commercial Director of ITV Network, responsible for marketing, on-air promotion, business affairs, ITV2 and internet activities.

From 1983 to 1997 Hardie worked at Procter and Gamble, in the last three years as Managing Director, running the European cosmetics and toiletries business across Europe.