SAT-IBERIA 24.06.1998

SAT-IBERIA - Edition 8/98 - June 24th 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 

The administrative council of the Prisa media group which, through it's
subsidiary Sogecable, operates Canal Satélite Digital (CSD), has announced
that the Spanish digital platform has passed the 500,000 subscriber mark.
Sogecable has closed last year with revenues totalling 296 million pesetas,
but the losses for the launch of CSD have reached 13,500 million pesetas.
The losses have in some way been compensated by the excellent performance
of the pay-TV operator Canal + which has reported revenues of 15,444
million pesetas for 1997 and has reached the 1,5 million-subscriber mark
(30% of them receive Canal+ via the CSD digital platform).
The main event of the past year has been the launch of CSD, the first
Spanish digital platform. In order to further develop its services the
company has obtained a loan valued at 60,000 million pesetas from 50 major
international banks. CSD officially launched at the end of January 1997 and
currently offers 120 services, among them 68 TV channels, 41 audio channels
and several interactive services. Canal+ and CSD hold exclusive rights to
Spanish league football and all movies produced by the following Hollywood
movie studios: Time Warner, Paramount, Universal, Columbia, TriStar, Dream
Works, Buenavista Internacional and 20th Century Fox.
The audio-visual division of the Prisa group, which is concentrated around
Sogecable, reported revenues of 80,797 million pesetas during 1997, which
represents a 12,7% increase to the previous year.

The Spanish public broadcaster RTVE is in serious trouble and its debt,
which reaches 600,000 million pesetas, is only the tip of the iceberg.
While the Spanish Parliament is discussing the future model of financing
for RTVE, the company's costs are rising on a daily basis while revenues
succeed in covering only a third of the debt. Estimates are that the debt
will rise to an incredible one billion pesetas by the year 2000 and the
constant rise in the deficit is a sign of the critical state the public
broadcaster is faced with - since 1991 the accumulated debt has been
multiplied by 25.
In regards to the audience, RTVE still holds the leading position, but
every year the viewership has been falling and the distance, which
separates it from the private broadcasters, is becoming smaller. From 1991
when the first private TV channels started broadcasting, the leading
channel, TVE-1 has seen it's audience share fall from 43% to the current
25,1% share. The second public channel, La 2 has suffered a slightly
smaller decrease in audience, from 14,2% in 1991 to 8,9% in 1997. This
years figures are no more encouraging and show that the audience gap
between RTVE and the private channels is becoming even smaller. Available
audience figures from May were as follows: TVE-1 24,9%, La 2 8,8%, Antena 3
23,2% and Telecinco 20,9%.

The private TV stations (Antena 3, Telecinco and Canal +) have continued to
pressure the Spanish government to modify the preliminary version of the
Digital Terrestrial Television decree which will probably be approved by
the end of this month. Each of the three national private TV channels wants
to receive a multiplex frequency which can be used to transmit 4 channels,
instead of just one channel as is stated in the current decree.
Representatives of the government have made it clear that they are open for
negotiations, but that they don't want the current private broadcasters
dominating the television market. In any case, the preliminary text of the
decree which is currently being discussed by the State Council, has already
suffered some modifications which regard the use of alternative networks to
the existing one operated by Retevision which is in charge of operating the
digital terrestrial television network.

The Spanish telecom operator Telefónica, one of the major shareholders in
Vía Digital and Antena 3, has announced that it will nominate two of it's
top managers to the administrative council of Audiovisual Sport, the
company which owns the TV rights to Spanish league football. The two men in
question are Arturo Baldasano, president of Telefónica Media and Pedro
Pérez, CEO of Vía Digital. Baldasano and Pérez will substitute José Manuel
Deus and Pedro Ramón y Cajal as representatives of Telefonica's subsidiary
Gestora de Medios Audiovisuales del Fútbol (GMAF). 
The current shareholders of Audiovisual Sport are as follows: GMAF (40%),
Sogecable (40%) and the regional channel TV3 (20%). Telefónica has decided
on this move following the failure of negotiations with Sogecable regarding
the splitting up of pay-per-view rights to Spanish football. Sogecable
currently holds the exclusive PPV rights for the next five seasons.
According to some sources, Sogecable representatives asked for more than
50,000 million pesetas for sharing the exclusive rights, a sum judged far
too high by Vía Digital.

The Spanish TV airwaves are saturated with commercials and latest data from
the month of May shows that the TV channels broadcast 135,679 advertising
"spots", which is a 15% increase compared to the same period in 1997. On a
daily basis, it means that the TV channels broadcast 4,377 ads, which is a
15,8% increase compared to May 1997 when 3,777 ads were transmitted. The
Spanish government has already announced that it will take measures,
through the General Secretary of Communications, to ensure that the
advertising quotas are respected. The Spanish Association of Advertisers
(AEA) was more cautious and said that even if the number of ads has
increased, this does not mean that the proposed advertising quotas had been
The current law states that a maximum of 12 minutes of advertising are
allowed each "natural" hour and that is exactly where the doubts of
advertisers lie since the term a "natural" hour can be interpreted in
different ways. In any case, recent surveys have shown that the number of
cases when the law has been broken is declining - 141 in April of this year
compared to 480 in December 1997.

All Spanish TV broadcasters, both public and private, have agreed to
jointly ask the Congress for increasing the number of amendments to the
white paper aimed at applying the EU directive "Television without
frontiers" in Spain. The original text of the bill was prepared without
previous consultation with the TV broadcasters. The most discussed points
of the bill regard the criteria which will be used to count the 12 minutes
of advertising which the EU directive sets as a limit per one hour of
programming, the program quotas regarding European productions and whether
this applies only to general entertainment channels or to thematic channels
Following a meeting between representatives of all TV channels and the
Infrastructure Commission of the Congress, the broadcasters decided
unanimously to submit a joint document, which reflects their opinions
regarding this sector. The broadcasters concerned include: RTVE, Antena 3,
Tele 5, Canal +, Canal Sur, Canal 9, Televisión de Galicia, Televisión de
Cataluña, Euskal Telebista, Telemadrid, DTS (Vía Digital), Canal Satélite
Digital and FORTA. This decision does not mean that all the channels have
common interests. Antena 3 and Tele 5 for example feel that the advertising
quotas cannot be applied the same way as on public channels, since the
later have two sources of financing (advertising revenues and government
grants). The pay-TV channels, for which advertising is a secondary source
of income, are more affected by the government proposal which imposes on
them to transmit a certain quota of European programs, which is however not
mentioned in the EU directive.

The Spanish public broadcaster RTVE, the pay-TV channel Canal Plus and the
two digital platforms have announced that they are ready to set apart part
of their profits in order to finance the Spanish film industry, as has been
recently asked by the major film producers. The Federation of Association
of Spanish Audiovisual Producers (FAPAE) had asked the Infrastructure
Commission of the Congress that TV stations operating in Spain put aside 7%
of revenues for the production of Spanish films. The commercial director of
RTVE, Javier Cordero, made it clear that the public broadcaster would be
very happy if such a decision was established by the Parliament. 


Galaxy Latin America, provider of the DirecTV  service in Latin America and
the Caribbean, and Radio Televisión Española (RTVE), Spain's leading
communications group and one of the top television producers in Europe have
recently signed a programming agreement. In accordance to the agreement,
DirecTV subscribers in Latin America have started receiving Televisión
Española Internacional, Hispavisión, Euronews and Radio Nacional de España
(Radio Uno). Televisión Española Internacional offers the best of Spain's
two national channels, while Hispavisión offers first-rate documentaries.
Euronews is an international news service offered in six languages
(Spanish, English, French, German, Italian and Arab), all available via
DirecTV. Radio Uno, is a Spanish radio channel that offers news, talk
shows, interviews, sports and music shows. This will be the first time that
Hispavisión, Euronews and Radio Uno are broadcast in Latin America. GLA
also has the option to add Canal 24 horas, a Spanish news channel and Radio
Clásica (Radio Dos), the best selection of classical music currently
available in Europe. It may also add other channels currently being
As part of the agreement, RTVE will also provide the signal for The First
Division Spanish Soccer League games to DirecTV. It will also create a
weekly half-hour show highlighting the games of the week. Currently, GLA
and the U.S. DirecTV service are developing Hispanic-programming offerings
for the U.S. market.  

The Weather Channel Latin America has recently signed a deal with Ecuavisa,
a TV station based in Ecuador for providing weather forecasts during
several news segments. It is estimated that Ecuavisa's programs can be
received in over 3 million households.

The holding company Grupo UNO, which controls the country's third-largest
cable operator, Supercanal has bought a significant stake in the
female-focused channel, Siempre Mujer. Grupo UNO is also involved in
another project for the launch of a new channel (tentatively called Colors)
in partnership with the famous Italian clothes company, Benetton.
Supercanal has also cable interests in Bolivia, the Dominican Republic as
well as Spain.

Columbia TriStar International Television is planning to launch several
channels for viewers in Latin America following the recent investments in
Hispanic broadcaster Telemundo and its partnership with HBO Olé, which
operates the SET channel. Sony is also considering the possibility of
buying out the Tele-UNO channel and relaunching it as AXN. The Canadian
media group ChumCity has signed it's first international deal with the
Brazilian TV broadcaster Rede Bandeirantes for the launch of several
thematic channels. 

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