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Last month, Udi Miron, the CEO and owner of the Ananei Tikshoret (communications company) decided to join his local tennis league in North Tel Aviv. At a certain point, he noticed that the players in this league, busy people who travel abroad frequently, often do not play in the matches. Therefore he correctly surmised that it would be enough to play in a few games - not even win them - to move to the top of the league.

"Two weeks before the final I entered the race, I played twice a week, which is hard work for someone my age, 54. I won some games and lost others and reached the final - and there I lost."

More than this story tells about the state of health of Miron, who earlier this week launched the new health channel on cable television (34) and on satellite television (77), it tells about his competitiveness. Miron, who was one of the founders of the cable production company ICP and the CEO of Noga Communications, today heads a communications company that broadcasts niche channels such as Hahaim Hatovim (The Good Life), Ego, MTV and Nickelodeon. He also wants, it turns out, to be the local neighborhood champion.

Miron does not watch the stations his company produces. Of The Good Life, for example, he says, "I'm not the station's target audience. My age and gender explain that and besides I'm not the average viewer. Period. If I didn't work in communications, I wouldn't watch television at all." At his age, he says, you also don't watch the Beep Channel (the humor channel on cable TV). "People say the sitcoms aren't funny anymore. They just don't realize that they don't make them laugh anymore. You stop enjoying this type of humor when you hit the age of 30. Suddenly you love to listen to informative programs. Life is a kind of trip, and at this point, this is what interests me."

What does he watch? "I barely watch the news and watch the sports channels to do something with my sons, and telenovelas with my 14-year-old daughter. It's strange that these are my viewing habits, because I came to the world of television via the content, and not from the business side. I studied in Tel Aviv University's department of film and television. And that's also frustrating."

If so, Miron should understand the question: Who really needs so many niche channels? But in his eyes, "the view that you only need one channel in each area is degenerate." His terminology comes from the business world: a television series is a brand, he explains, "and every area has its leading brand." He believes such a brand can maintain a channel. MTV split into several sub-channels so others wouldn't swallow it up. The Discovery Channel did the same thing. If so, the principle is segmentation: a separate channel for every target audience, limited as it may be.

"The arrival of digital channels changed the models. It took a lot of time to understand this. I always use an example from the world of automobiles - once there were cars that traveled on eight-lane highways, but what do you do when the highways have 100 lanes? You have to change the cars. In other words, the medium is the message."

A health risk

Ananei Tikshoret's channels specialize in "factual non-fantasy" programs in his professional definition. The Good Life, which appeals to women, and Ego, which appeals to men, both focus on lifestyle and leisure. In the male market, "we haven't cracked the lifestyle options," the CEO delicately describes the programs on Ego, which range from dreamlike to soft pornography. "We need good documentary programs about subjects that are masculine in nature," he agrees and admits that the budgets for these channels "don't allow for much spreading out." The limited budget is evident on the screen on The Good Life (to give one example, every day "Bon Appetit with Joel Robuchon" is aired and the dishes are still priced in French francs).

Miron comments: "Not everyone can be in the top 10." So perhaps the abundance of channels is appropriate for bigger countries, where there are enough viewers? "The Israeli reality is very difficult," agrees Miron. However, an abundance of channels is the top trend in television today all over the world and, in Miron's opinion, it would be wrong to deviate from this trend here.

He hopes that between the cable and satellite subscribers there will be enough people interested who will be willing to pay another NIS 10 per month for the health channel (Ego and The Good Life are part of the basic cable package). "We are taking a huge gamble with this channel. Channels that must be paid for separately have not proven themselves in the past."

But his health channel will be "a service channel," he explains. "On The Good Life, you watch for the escapism, you see food served in restaurants that you'll never dine in, delicacies that you'll never taste and hotels where you'll never stay. That, too is a sort of catharsis. Our assumption is that for this, entertainment, people will not be willing to pay. But it can be different if the channel provides medical information, suggestions and explanations about proper nutrition, women's health, pharmacology, fitness, yoga, Pilates, tai chi, meditation. The station will also be backed by an Internet site (www.haimtov.vo.il), but essentially it's a channel that is appealing to an older audience who does not see the Internet as a solution. It wants an additional reservoir of information."