SAT-IBERIA - Edition 2/98 - May 13th 1998
Satellite and media news from Spain, Portugal and Latin America
Edited by Branislav Pekic
S P A I N A N D P O R T U G A L
VIA DIGITAL AND CANAL PLUS FIGHT IT OUT
According to recently released data, Canal Plus's Spanish digital platform
is still the leader in this market. Data from the end of 1997 shows that
Canal Satélite Digital had
260,000 subscribers which is 60,000 more than it's main rival Via Digital.
The battle between the two rivals is being fought out on all fronts. Via
Digital in fact recently started a vast reorganisation program, following
the entry of new shareholder Galaxy Latin America (GLA) back in January.
GLA, owned by the U.S. digital platform DirecTV (owned for it's part by
Hughes Electronics) bought a 6,9% stake but has an option of increasing
it's stake up to 17%. Other shareholders include Spanish telecom operator
Telefonica, publisher Recoleto and the Mexican broadcaster Televisa.
The arrival of a new shareholder such as Galaxy Latin America will
certainly serve to boost Via Digital's offer. GLA's digital packages are
available in 12 Latin American countries since 1995 and they include a
total of 164 TV channels, pay-per-view and near-video-on-demand services
(whose number is set to double in the next 2 years). Besides DirecTV, GLA
has among its shareholders 4 leading regional TV production companies: MVS
Multivision (Mexico), TV Abril (Brazil) and Cisneros (Venezuela). I
Via Digital currently offers 35 thematic TV channels and includes live
pay-per-view transmissions of 7 football games a week as well as premium
movie channels. Twelve new thematic channels are set to debut by the end of
the year, including Eurosport España, Millenium (a channel for mystery
fans) as well as 8 channels produced by Media Park.
On the distributive front, Via Digital is betting on the success of SMATV,
i.e. the concept of one dish per apartment block. The operator has
announced an ambitious investment plan, in agreement with the national
association of antenna installers (Fenitel), which aims to offer free
installation of SMATV systems for all interested households, in return for
a subscription to it's digital package. This new initiative could bring
increase the number of households receiving the Via Digital package by at
least one million. Figures from mid-March show that the number of
subscribers stands at around 350,000 and Via Digital hopes to close the
year with double that number. The operator closed the financial year 1997
with reported losses of 13,7 million pesetas, mainly due to costs for
launching the service, which started on September 15th. The Madrid based
digital operator hopes to reach the break-even point in the year 2000
SPANISH PRIVATE TV AGAINST EU DIRECTIVE
The Spanish Parliament has started debating a "white paper" submitted by
the Government whose goal is to apply the new EU directive known as
"Television without frontiers". Representatives of all the major private TV
networks - Antena 3, Tele 5 and
Sogecable (owner of Canal + and Canal Satélite Digital) have already made
known their opposition to the new bill. They have suggested instead that
the Spanish law should be more lenient in comparison to the EU directive
which introduces advertising limits as well as the obligation TV quotas for
European or Spanish productions. The private broadcasters also feel that
they are discriminated since they are not treated the same as the public TV
channels which have two sources of financing (advertising and public
In an interview with Spanish daily, "El Pais, the general secretary of
Sogecable, Miguel Satrústegui expressed his company's surprise with the
Spanish government which communicated to the European Commission wrong data
concerning the amount of European produced programs on Sogecable's
channels. According to Satrústegui, the quota of European programs
transmitted in 1995 on Canal + amounted to 51% which is far more than the
39% figure communicated by to Brussels. The same discrepancy appeared a
year later when the quota amounted to 60%, compared to the 40% reported by
the Ministry. He added that the same directive should not be applied to
digital platforms such as Canal Satélite, but admitted that it had been
vital for the survival of the digital operator in 1997 when the Spanish
government put up major obstacles.
For his part, the president of Vía Digital, Pedro Perez underlined the fact
that Spanish TV channels pay excessive sums of money for U.S. movies, but
added that the EU directive should take in account the new digital TV
VIA DIGITAL SIGNS DEAL WITH 20th.CENTURY FOX
Subscribers to Via Digital will soon be able to watch major box-office hits
from the Twentieth Century Fox studios, thanks to a deal signed at the end
of April by Media Park, the leading producer of thematic channels in Spain
and provider of 8 channels for the digital platform, with the U.S. major.
The ten-year agreement will give Via Digital access to the huge Fox library
which includes such hit-movie titles as "Braveheart", "Home alone",
"Batman", "Edward Scissorhands", "Alien", or "Working girl"; as well as
movie classics such as "Chariots of fire", "French Connection", ""Tora,
Tora, Tora" or "Cleopatra". All these movies are included in the package
bought by Media Park and they will be transmitted on Via Digital's channels
"Boulevard", "Palace" or "Cinematic". This deal opens the possibility for
future collaborations between Media Park and Fox in the areas of
coproduction or acquisition of rights for TV programs produced for 20th.
Century Fox. Media Park is owned by Philips, the Equip group and TV3
GLOBOSAT COMES TO PORTUGAL
The Brazilian pay-TV operator Globosat that is owned by Organizações Globo,
the fourth largest media group in the world, has launched a new service in
Portugal on April 28th. The new service called Portusat is a joint venture
with TV Cabo Portugal - subsidiary of Portugal Telecom and aims to supply
pay-TV programming and to transfer know-how.
The joint venture has been established among SIC - leading TV company in
Portugal, of which Globo Organisation is partner - Globosat - leader in
Brazil in the pay-TV market, with over 1,6 million subscribers and 9
channels - and TV Cabo Portugal, Portuguese leader of the sector, which may
reach by the end of the year over 320,000 homes and an audience of 1
million people. The social capital of the new company is US$ 2.5 million.
TV Cabo will have a share of 42% and Globosat and SIC other 42%. The
remaining 16% will be distributed to minority holders: 8% to a programming
supplier and 8% to a programming company of TV. Globosatīs investment in
the creation of Portusat is US$ 8 million.
Two channels which form part of the "basic package" have already been
launched - Globosat Network Television (GNT) and Canal Brasil. GNT is in
fact the first 24 hour a day Brazilian channel to be aired to foreign
audiences and includes a selection of the best programs transmitted by
Globosat in Brazil: news from Brazil and international, humorous shows,
musicals, talk shows and soap-operas. The Canal Brasil channel airs movies,
independent video productions as well as musicals and documentaries with
Brazilian artists. Two movie channels, Telecine 1 and 2 will debut this
month, but they will be part of the "premium package" which will also
include a sports channel and a channel with movies and series from big
L A T I N A M E R I C A
NAHUELSAT EXPANSION PLANS
The Argentinean satellite operator NAHUELSAT has officially announced that
it plans to expand its current capacities by launching a second satellite.
It seems that NAHUELSAT has leased more than 70% of the transponder space
(it has a total of 12 Ku-band transponders) on it's first satellite,
NAHUELSAT 1 which was launched back in January 1997. The operator has
currently more than fifty clients in Latin America and annual revenues from
transponder leases stand at more than 40 million dollars.
GLOBOSAT A SUCCESS
The leading Brazilian pay-TV operator Globosat has reported an 80% increase
in subscriber figures during 1997 compared to 1996 figures. The total
number of subscribers at the end of 1997 stood at 1,8 million, which means
that Globosat currently holds more than 70% of the Brazilian pay-TV market.
A major increase in revenue was due especially to the good performance of 6
new channels - Sportv, GNT, Globo News, Multishow, Telecine, USA, Shoptime,
Premiere and Futura. According to director general Alberto Pecegueiro, the
programming mix of sports, movies, news and entertainment proved a winning
combination among advertisers. He added that advertising revenues rose from
30 million reals in 1996 to 50 million reals last year. During last year, a
total of 100 million reals were invested into technological development of
the network and infrastructure as well as for the launch of new channels.
The latest channel to be added was Futura, an educational service produced
by the Roberto Marinho foundation, together with private partners. The
movie service Telecine (a joint-venture with Paramount, Universal, Fox and
MGM) launched four new movie channels, specialised by movie genres while
the pay-per-view service Premiere was divided up into five separate
channels: Premiere 1, 2 e 3 (movies, special events and live music),
SexyHot (adult movies) and the Barker Channel (movie trailers).
Another major breakthrough was the arrival of Globosat in Europe, thanks to
a deal signed with TV Cabo Portugal which will see the launch of 6
channels. Last year, Globosat signed a special agreement with the leading
airline carrier in Brazil, Varig. The deal means that highlights from
Globosat's channels are now transmitted on Varig's foreign flights as part
of a special one-hour package.
LIVE BASEBALL ON DIRECTV LATIN AMERICA
This baseball season, DirecTV subscribers in Latin America and the
Caribbean will be able to watch more than 300 Major League Baseball games.
Subscribers to the DirecTV service will be able to enjoy two to three games
per day, including the playoffs and the World Series. This is the second
year DirecTV brings Major League Baseball to Latin America. The programming
is part of the Play Ball package, an offer of DirecTV Sports.
Since its launch in 1996, DirecTV has offered its subscribers an extensive
sports package that has included American football, basketball, boxing,
golf, tennis, baseball and soccer. Starting this August, DirecTV will offer
games from The First Division Spanish Soccer League.
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