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CTC Media Gains Russian Digital TV Licenses Along With Usmanov

CTC Media, OAO Gazprom and channels owned by billionaires Alisher Usmanov and Yuri Kovalchuk won Russian digital television licenses as the country starts to switch to the new technology.

CTC Media won licenses for its Domashny and CTC channel, while Gazprom got them for its channels TNT and Sport NTV+, Alexander Zharov, the head of Roskomnadzor, the country’s telecommunication and mass-media regulator, told reporters in Moscow today. Billionaire Yuri Kovalchuk’s Ren TV and billionaire Alisher Usmanov’s Muz TV also obtained licenses.

Independent channel Rain TV wasn’t chosen by the tender commission due to its political format and potential uncertainty of funding, Zharov said. Billionaire Vladimir Potanin’s entertainment channel 2x2 also lost the race.

Russia plans to fully complete its switch to digital in 2015, giving the population of the world’s largest country by territory access to a larger number of television channels. Major state-run channels and others chosen by the government got digital licenses for free.

The 10 winners announced today will have to pay about $31 million a year each to fund the state’s infrastructure for digital transmission, according to Zharov. The winners, which also include state-owned TVC, army channel Zvezda, VGTRK Sport and Mir, are also paying a $1.2 million down payment.

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