France Steps To The Forefront Of European Hdtv

There's good news and bad news for Europe's high-definition-television industry. After a year of dickering, the French government came to terms in September with Canal Plus, the pay-TV broadcaster, over Europe's HDTV standard. Starting in November, Canal Plus's movie channel, a second film channel, and state-owned France 2 will broadcast over France's Telecom 2A satellite in the so-called D2-Mac widescreen format, making France the first European nation to offer regular widescreen programming. That could ignite anemic sales of HDTVs from makers Thomson, Philips, and Nokia.

But the deal cut by Canal Plus Chairman Andre Rousselet also allows the same channels to transmit conventional TV signals over the same satellite. So, consumers won't have to buy new widesceen sets to receive the programs. That may cut anticipated sales of advanced sets by over 50%. Now, the industry awaits a crucial vote in November by the European Community, which will decide whether to grant broadcasters $1.1 billion in subsidies to pay for converting programs to HDTV. A no vote could kill Europe's HDTV strategy for good.

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