Variety channel Sound TV off air within year of launch

Liz Thomas

Sound TV, the channel set up by entertainers Richard Digance and Mike Osman dedicated to reviving variety, has gone into administration less than a year after it launched.

The station was billed as a platform to showcase new talent as well as more traditional forms of live entertainment. Originally named The Great British Variety Channel, it had backing from stars such as Chris Tarrant, Joe Pasquale, Brian Conley and Bradley Walsh. It first broadcast in January for eight hours a day on Sky channel 588, as part of a venture with Information TV.

The aim was for it to become a round the clock channel from June 30 but the station did not raise enough advertising revenue to continue with its programming or to create new shows and administrators Portland Business Solutions were called in on October 3. Digance also resigned from the board of directors in August following creative differences.

A spokesman for Portland Business Solutions said: “We were called in to offer professional advice as an independent third party. The company suffered problems in cashflow and this affected its plans for development. We are currently devising a new business strategy to resolve the issue. It is likely it will relaunch as a production company. There is a lot of material that could be sold for use by broadcasters.”

He added that he was confident the company would be able to get back up and running in the next few months. Digance’s departure means that there are only five directors – co-founder Mike Osman, comic Jethro, Morag Thorpe, Jazz Summers and Rodney Hurst.

The channel also received early support from newspaper columnist Gary Bushell, comedian Jimmy Cricket and other light entertainers. Some supporters claimed that those with holiday centre or social club backgrounds were being overlooked in favour of those who have managed to get noticed via the Edinburgh Festival or comedy club circuit.

Digance was unavailable for comment as The Stage went to press. Before the channel’s launch Digance said: “We are not a cobweb channel simply aiming to give an outlet for artists who can not find a home elsewhere. A large part of our remit is to encourage new talent. Reality shows are fine but there is an awful lot of them. We are not in direct competition with the BBC or ITV. This is about providing a wider outlet for talent.”

In the past few years, both main terrestrial broadcasters have won huge audiences and international sales with shows rooted in variety and cabaret. The Corporation has already made more than £20 million by selling the format of Strictly Come Dancing globally and the series has proved a big hit in the US. The popularity of ITV1′s The X Factor and Pop Idol have also enjoyed worldwide success and generated millions in revenue for its creators, the producer and the network.

Information TV helps entirely new channels to get off the ground, by utilising chunks of its own airtime to preview programming. This allows them to prove the idea can work, much more quickly and at far lower cost than would otherwise be possible.

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