SAT-IBERIA 25.05.1998

SAT-IBERIA - Edition 4/98 - May 26th 1998
Satellite, cable and media news from Spain, Portugal and Latin America
Edited by Branislav Pekic (owner-sat-iberia@tags1.dn.net)

S P A I N  A N D  P O R T U G A L 

Via Digital and Thomson Multimedia have signed a deal for the production of
400,000 decoders for subscribers to the Spanish digital platform. The
decoders will be produced over the next three-year period, with the first
shipment being ready by the end of the year.
The decoders ordered by Via Digital are compatible with the European
digital standard DVB and have a common interface (Open TV with conditional
access system Nagravision). The boxes will be developed in Thomson's I+D
centre in Rennes (France) and produced in Auxonne (France) and Juarez
(Mexico). The president of Via Digital, Pedro Pérez has said that they
chose Thomson principally because of it's large experience in producing
decoders for the world-wide market where they've sold more than 7 million
Thanks to this agreement, Thomson has become the third official supplier
(besides Echostar and Nokia) of decoders for Via Digital's platform, which
started broadcasting in September of last year. According to official
figures, there are currently over 250,000 decoders installed for receiving
Via Digital.

On May 18th, Via Digital signed an agreement with OpenTV Inc., which will
permit the Spanish digital platform to use Open TV's software for
interactive services. Via Digital hopes to introduce a package of
interactive services from the last trimester of this year.
They will include telebanking and teleshopping as well as weather news and
other interactive information services. Via Digital has already been
conducting a pilot project at 70 points of sale throughout Spain, in
co-operation with BBV and Telefónica Multimedia. 
Via Digital's new partner, OpenTV Inc, is one of the leading companies in
the world which offers global solutions for the introduction of interactive
services for digital TV (via cable or terrestrially). It has signed
agreements with 14 decoder manufacturers, 4 manufacturers of conditional
access systems and 4 microchip manufactures. OpenTV has been key in
launching interactive services for the French digital platform TPS
(Telèvision Par Satellite) in 1997 and has recently signed agreements with
British Interactive Broadcasting, the Swedish platform Telia, Denmark's
Tele Denmark Kabel and Stream in Italy. The company also has a leading
position in the following markets: Germany, U.S.A., Australia, The
Netherlands, South Africa, Greece, Thailand and Latin America. 

The Spanish anti-corruption authorities have decided to drop charges
against the president of the private TV channel Antenna 3 Televisión,
Antonio Asensio. The charges were put forward on February 5th 1997
following an anonymous tip regarding presumed irregularities in running the
TV company committed by Asensio. He allegedly broke the law governing the
private TV sector, by directly controlling a larger stake in Antenna 3
Televisión than the 25% maximum allowed and he also use the situation "for
obtaining illicit gains", with the complicity of the channel's
administrative council. Following an investigation, which lasted more than
a year and which failed to come up with any concrete evidence, the
anti-corruption authorities decided to drop charges.

The Spanish government has reserved two channels for the public broadcaster
RTVE in one of the multiple digital TV channels to be licensed as well as
one channel each for the private TV networks Antena 3, Telecinco and Canal
+ in a second multiple digital channel. The "National Technical plan for
Digital TV" also proposes that RTVE will be able to transmit simultaneously
in analogue and digital mode at least for the next 10 years, before
switching over completely to digital. The public broadcaster will have to
start transmitting in digital within a 2-year period; otherwise it risks
losing its license.
The plan distinguishes between multiple channels with national coverage and
those which cover autonomous and local areas as well as between channels
which will be available from before January 1st 2000 and those which will
be operative after that date.
Other available multiple digital TV frequencies will be assigned for free
or pay-TV services following a bidding process. Each of them will be made
up of 4 separate TV services, which are capable of transmitting 24 hours a
day. Regarding the exploitation of digital channels covering autonomous and
local areas, which are available before January 1st 2000, the plan proposes
that each of the autonomous communities will issue the necessary licenses.
An annex to the above mentioned frequency plan includes the precise
calendar for the introduction and implementation of the new digital
terrestrial services. It is made up of four phases with the first starting
on July 1st 1998 and has the objective of reaching coverage of 50% of the
population. The second phase starts on January 1st 1999 (coverage of 70% of
the population), the third phase follows a year later (80% coverage) and
the final fourth phase starts on July 1st 2001 and will last 10 years by
which hopefully 95% of the Spanish population will be able to receive the
new digital terrestrial channels.

The Spanish telecom operator and one of the major shareholders in the
digital platform Via Digital, Telefónica Group, has reported that it's net
profits for the fiscal year 1997 have increased by 18,6% to reach 190.063
billion pesetas. The growth was driven by the principal companies in the
Group: Telefónica de España, Telefónica Internacional and Telefónica
Móviles, which accounted for 59.4%, 16.4% and 13.4%, respectively, of
consolidated operating revenues. The growth of operating expenses continued
to slow, with a year-on-year increase of 17.4%, down from 20.5% in December
1996. Consolidated operating profit, meanwhile, rose 14.7% to 660.454
billion pesetas. 
The Telefónica Group generated cash flow of 961.434 billion pesetas, an
increase of 18.5% from 1996. Total consolidated investment during 1997 was
1.231 trillion pesetas, up 42.0% from 1996, while financial investment
amounted to 545.438 billion pesetas.

The local government on the Canary Islands has created it's own company
which will bid for the upcoming cable franchise which will cover this
Spanish island. The partners in this venture include Unelco; banking and
media companies based on the island as well as the public owned company
Sofesa. The reason behind the interest by the local authorities is that
they do not want to give up control over such an important area such as
telecommunications. Their major competitors for the license, which will be
advertised at the end of this month, will be cable operators Cable Europa
and Endesa, which already operate several cable systems throughout Spain.
Regardless of who wins the franchise, the new cable system for the Canaries
will provide telephony, digital TV and radio as well as teleshopping and
other interactive services. The franchise will be granted for a 25-year
period with the possibility of renewing for another 75 years.

- The Spanish version of The Disney Channel (part of the Canal Satelite
Digital package) which started broadcasting in April has scrambled it's
signal on the ASTRA satellites.

L A T I N   A M E R I C A 

The Cisneros Group of Companies has announced the placement of debt
securities for IMASAC S.A, the holding company for Imagen Satelital. The
net proceeds from the offering will be used primarily to repay principal
and accrued interest on the US$ 50 million bridge loan used to acquire
Imagen Satelital. Imagen Satelital, acquired by the Cisneros Group in 1997,
is Argentina's leading cable programmer with six owned channels and
distribution rights to twelve others. Founded in 1990, Imagen Satelital is
the largest programming packager in the Southern Cone, which includes
Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Bolivia. In addition, the company
distributes programming pan-regionally to countries including Peru and
Imagen Satelital's channels, which have the highest penetration rate in
Argentina, include Infinito (a documentary channel), Space (a 24-hour movie
channel), Júpiter Comic (Latin America's only comedy channel), I-Sat (a
movie channel geared to a younger audience) and Uniseries (which shows
popular dramatic weekly television series from the US and abroad) The
system also distributes the successful music channel MuchMusic and the news
network Crónica. In addition, Imagen Satelital owns one of Latin America's
largest and most important film libraries. The Cisneros Group of Companies
has holdings in a number of media, entertainment and telecommunications
companies around the world. Among its major interests, the Group owns or
has significant holdings in: Venevision, the largest producer of
Spanish-language television programming in South America; Venevision
International, one of the leading distribution outlets for Spanish-language
programming content; Univision, the largest Spanish-language network in the
United States; Chilevision, a nationwide broadcast television network in
Chile, Caracol TV, a broadcast network to be form in Colombia with the
Santo Domingo Group; Caribbean Communications Network, the Trinidad based
media conglomerate; Imagen Satelital, the leading pay television programmer
in the Southern Cone; the Cisneros Television Group, a producer of pay
television services for Latin America and Europe; Galaxy Latin America
(GLA), the multinational company that delivers exclusive DirecTV service to
Latin America; and Via Digital, a direct-to-home platform in Spain.
Revenues for the Group totalled more than US$ 2.6 billion in 1997. 

Two new electronics manufacturers have started supplying digital decoders
for the reception of Sky Mexico's DBS service. Philips and Zenith Network
Systems have now joined Pace Electronics which had until recently been the
sole supplier for that market. According to figures from the end of last
year, Sky Mexico has around 100,000 subscribers. The digital platform is a
joint venture between Televisa, News Corporation and TCI. Televisa, which
is the largest media group in the Spanish-speaking world, has posted net
losses of 347m pesos (US$40m) for the final quarter of last year. The
Mexican company blamed start-up costs of its Sky Mexico DTH satellite
venture for the losses. 

- The Spanish telecom operator, Telefonica has reached an agreement with
the Argentinean subsidiary of Citibank, which could make Telefonica de
Argentina the leading media, company in the country. The two partners are
interested in buying a 40% stake of Editorial Atlantida, one of the
country's leading publishers and owner of the leading TV station.
- Television Azteca has recently announced 400 redundancies among its staff
of 3,300 despite plans for expansion into markets throughout Latin America.
The channel owned by Ricardo Salinas Pliego already has TV interests in
Chile, Guatemala and El Salvador.

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