Television Par Satellite (TPS) the French digital satellite operator which is a rival to Vivendi Universal's CanalSatellite, is taking on Canal Plus, the French pay-TV channel, with the launch of a 'premium' channel, TPS Star, which will concentrate on film and soccer programming.

The operator -- which boasts 1 million subscribers, compared to 4.6 million for Canal Plus and 1.6 million for CanalSatellite -- needed a flagship channel to anchor and promote its digital service. However, although Canal Plus is a separate service from CanaSatellite, TPS, which has output deals with only two US studios, MGM and Paramount, has trouble competing with Canal Plus which has output deals with all the others and is also involved in 80% of the French films produced each year.

Instead of spreading its film offer over two channels, Cinestar 1 and Cinestar2, as was previously the case, all of TPS' first-run and recent films will been screened on TPS Star (some 500 per year, a 100 of them being first-run titles). Cinestar 1 and Cinestar 2 will schedule onlly re-runs, in their dubbed version for the former and sub-titled for the latter.

The programming of TPS' two other film channels, Cinefaz (a channel aimed at the younger crowd which schedules older titles along thematic guidelines) and Cinetoile (film classics) will remain unchanged.

Like the successful Cinefaz, the channel's schedule will involve themed evenings and its programming, which will lean heavily on family-oriented, mainstream films, will hinge on two main weekly primetime rendez-vous : Home Cinema, which will include a first-run or recent title each Wednesday (the first films to be screened are Zorro, Armageddon, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Horse Whisperer, Fight Club and Snake Eyes, among others) and Movie Star, on Fridays, which will showcase a film star (Bruce Willis, John Travolta, Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise are among the first) and include two of their most successful titles.