Sat-ND, 4.1.97

Sat-ND 97-01-04 - Satellite and Media News

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An Ariane 4 rocket is expected to put two satellites into orbit on January 28
-- General Electric's GE 2 and NAHUEL 1, Argentina's first geostationary
satellite. (The two NAHUELs at 71.8W and 75.8 are actually the Canadian birds
ANIK C1 and C2 respectively.) The new satellite will be operated by Nahuelsat,
a company that also involves European investors such as Daimler Benz Aerospace,
Aerospatiale, and Alenia Spazio. 
Thus, it is by no means a coincidence that Nahuelsat expected funds of more
than US$100 million from a pool of EU based banks. The operation, which was
announced in July 1996, was co-ordinated by Dresdner Bank, Credit Lyonnais,
Mediocredito Centrale, and Sao Paolo Ireland.
NAHUEL 1 will be the main rival for PanAmSat in bringing digital TV to Latin
America even though the satellite will also be used for data and voice
communications up to a third of its capacity.
Its footprint will extend from Tierra del Fuego to the USA, while the two
existing NAHUELs cover just two thirds of Argentina's territory. In addition,
Nahuelsat (Argentina) and Brazil's Embratel (operators of the BRASILSAT
satellites) have signed an agreement for joint operations in the Mercosur trade
NAHUEL 1 will have an operational life span of twelve years. Its 18
transponders will operate in the Ku band, offering a power of 55 watts each.
The spacecraft will be positioned at 71.8W and is expected to become
operational in March. 
One of its main purposes is the distribution of Television Directa al Hogar
(TDH,) a direct to home TV service. So far it has attracted just 8,000
subscribers for its twelve-channel package that is currently distributed via
NAHUEL C1 (71.8W.) 
When the service was launched back May 1996 (Sat-ND, 9.5.96,) TDH expected
18,000 subscribers at the end of 1996 -- more than twice the actual number.
NAHUEL 1 will enable TDH to extend its capacity, but it remains to be seen
whether this makes the service more attractive. A decoder sells at US$1,000
while the monthly subscription fee is US$28.

The spectre of digital TV keeps haunting well-established broadcasters all over
Europe. Especially public broadcasters that cash in license fees fear for their
market shares as they usually offer just a few TV channels. Can they survive in
a TV landscape that might consist of hundreds of channels?
It is more than uncertain whether viewing habits will really change
dramatically just because of a new (and, technically speaking, worse)
transmission technology. Nonetheless, many public broadcasters now seem to
think in terms of quantity rather than quality just to keep in touch with the
digital multi-channel frenzy.
Of course, nobody knows what the BBC's digital package (Sat-ND, 1.1.97) will
finally look like. Anyway, it will be expensive, and that's why the BBC agreed
to sell off its domestic network of TV and radio transmitters to a commercial
consortium today.
Led by Houston, Texas based Castle Tower Corporation, it also includes
TeleDiffusion de France, a subsidiary of the France Telecom Group, and the
investment firms Candover Investments Plc and Berkshire Partners. The
consortium will be granted a 10-year contract to transmit BBC domestic analogue
television and radio services.
"This will help fund the BBC going into a much more competitive era,'' said BBC
Deputy Director-General Bob Phillis. The deal, which is expected to be signed
this month, could raise up to 200 million pounds (US$340 million.) The BBC will
use the proceeds to help finance its new digital channels.

The recent price war for digital TV reception equipment in the USA may have
paid off for Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) providers. The U.S. Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) reported that nearly four million U.S.
households were receiving digital TV by October 1996, more than twice as much
as one year earlier (1.7 million.)  According to the FCC, lower equipment
prices may have increased the number of homes choosing to drop or reduce
conventional cable-TV service. Rivals to cable TV held 11 percent of the video
market in 1996.
But the government agency also noted that cable television operators continued
to win new subscribers. In its annual report to the U.S. Congress on the state
of competition in the cable-television industry, the FCC stated that  ''during
1996, the cable industry's total basic subscribership, total homes passed,
basic penetration, and premium channel subscriptions have reached all-time

U.S. media company Saban will take a majority share in Dutch station TV10
following a co-operation deal with TV10's owner Wegener Arcade. Saban will not
change the programming format of TV10, but will add daytime television targeted
at children. Saban is a producer of children and family programming.
TMF-9, also part of the Wegener Arcade empire, is not included in the deal.
Both stations can now be received with the dBox and on Dutch cable. (Jitse

It is often said that the Internet was a world-wide network although nothing
could be farther from the truth. The Internet may be an exciting virtual
playground for a bored elite in industrialised nations. It does, in theory,
stretch to many other countries -- but you need a computer and a telephone line
to access it. On a global scale this is by far the exception, not the rule.
Anyway, Ethiopia today was hooked up to the Internet using a connection that
can serve up to 5,000 clients at a time. The state-owned Internet Bureau, run
by the Ethiopian Telecommunications Authority, charges individuals US$25 per
month for Internet access. The fee covers 30 free hours, additional hours are
billed at US$3 each. In addition, there is a one-time connection fee of US$75.
Higher fees apply to commercial and government customers. 
For those Ethiopians who desperately need to join the Internet, and there are
probably not too many, it may still be cheaper this way. Until now, Internet
access was only possible trough service providers abroad -- and that involved
expensive international calls.

FEEDBACK - Sat-ND, 3.1.96
"You forgot to mention Kirch holds more than 50 percent of ASV as well. But the
main question is: Why does Kirch sell his ASV stake to his Taurus-Group just to
forward it to Rupert?" (Thomas Gmür)
Kirch owns just 35 percent of ASV shares, not enough to fully control the
company. I guess its more or less a gentlemen's agreement to the effect that
Kirch will concentrate on TV, ASV on publishing (the exception being SAT.1.)
The question whether Rupert Murdoch will take a stake in DSF is a separate
issue that is more or less related to the channel's future plans for new pay-TV
The issue is probably too complex to discuss it here anyway. Just remember the
puzzling history of the channel that is known as DSF nowadays. It started out
as "Musikbox," then Dottore Berlusconi came and transformed it into Tele 5.
Even after being converted to a sports channel, the coming and going of
shareholders continued. (Dr Sarmaz)

Copyright 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.

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