Sat-ND, 19.6.96

Sat-ND 96-06-19 - Satellite and Media News

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"(c) Copyright 1996 by Sat-ND, http://www.sat-net.com/pck/"
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This issue is sponsored by TELE-satellite, Europe's Satellite Magazine 
Have a look at their homepage! >> http://www.TELE-satellit.com/ <<

Flextech says No to Murdoch
Even Rupert Murdoch doesn't always get want he wants. Today, the satellite
television company Flextech announced that negotiations with Murdoch's Fox
Television network over a 49 percent stake in The Children's Channel (TCC)
had been terminated. Flextech added that "during the lengthy negotiations
with Fox, a number of other opportunities for TCC have presented
themselves which may give greater value to shareholders. These are
currently being evaluated." Flextech also owns a number of other channels
distributed by BSkyB, in which Mr Murdoch's News Corp holds 40 percent.

Play with Sega
Japanese computer games manufacturer Sega today launched its Game Channel
in Europe. For a subscription of less than 10 ponds per month, users will
be able to download (and play) up to 25 computer games over the existing
cable TV line. UK cable operators hope for new subscribers: In the USA, 8
percent of Sega Channel users were new to cable. Operators even hope for
second cable lines to be sold, allowing parents to watch TV while their
children are occupied playing computer games. Sega, on the other hand,
hopes for a boost in sales: Their interactive channel allows only for a
partial download of the games. To get all the levels, players still have
to buy cartridges. And what's worse, the game has to be downloaded every
time one wants to play it. Sega estimates the number of their "Mega Drive"
consoles in British homes at 3 million.
The Sega Channel, first launched in the USA in December 1994, is a
partnership between Sega of America, Tele-Communications Inc (TCI) and
Time Warner. In the UK, it is distributed by Flextech. Other companies who
want to offer the service on the Continent include Deutsche Telekom's
subsidiary TKS, Eneco in The Netherlands, and Norway's Telenor. 

I Spy... not
Germany might drop out of the development of the planned spy satellites
HELIOS and HORUS although French President Chirac and German Chancellor
Kohl reaffirmed their commitment to the project this month. According to
the magazine Stern, both the German Defence and the Finance minister agree
that there is no money for project, estimated to cost DM5.8 billion by
2009. The report was neither confirmed nor denied. While France seeks to
reduce Europe's reliance on U.S. intelligence, German military doubts the
use of an own surveillance system.

TCI spins off direct broadcasting
US cable giant TCI sells off its direct broadcasting satellite subsidiary
TCI Satellite Entertainment, Inc. to holders of TCI's common stock. This
move will make it an independent, publicly held corporation. 
There are certain conditions to be met, however. The Federal
Communications Commission has to approve, of course, and most important:
the spin-off should be tax-free for TCI Group stockholders. 
TCI Entertainment's assets include a 20.86 percent interest in PRIMESTAR
Partners, offering a direct-to-home TV service on medium power satellites,
as well as future high power services on satellite slots provided by
Canada's Telesat. C-Band transmission services will not be included. "This
spin-off is designed to enhance long-term value of the TCI Group
stockholders investment in TCI, by permitting the market to more readily
evaluate the operations and growth potential of TCI Satellite
Entertainment's business," said TCI president and CEO John Malone. TCI
announced not to retain any equity interest in the new company.

Chile uses PanAmSat
Compania de Telefonos de Chile (CTC) has leased a transponder on
PanAmSat's Atlantic Ocean Region satellite system. Up to eight TV channels
will be digitally delivered to cable system headends throughout Chile and
Latin America later this year. The uplink will be at CTC's technical
operations center in Santiago. CTC, the largest provider of telephone
services in Chile, is operated and partially owned by Telefonica
Internacional S.A., a unit of Telefonica de España,

Satellite dealers in The Netherlands become increasingly frustrated.
Prices for digital reception equipment are high, and the picture quality
of that PACE thing (and others) being sold now is very, very poor --
although Veronica Satellite says it's not that bad. Sport7 has done some
testing a few days back, in case you were wondering what happened to that.
(Jitse Groen)

No sports
The Dutch association of cable operators (Vecai) has advised its members
*not* to close any deal with the planned sports channel Sport7. It has
also become clear that the different municipalities are not willing to
raise the monthly subscription fee for local cable, thus not allowing the
(for example) Philips-owned cable systems to collect the extra two
Guilders. Municipalities have a lot of power, because usually, cable was
introduced by them in the seventies. Now that a lot of those have been
sold to commercial companies, the municipalities have added some rules
about pricing and programming. (Jitse Groen)

Don't go away
Some Germans may have hoped that the new era of digital pay TV would free
them from what they dislike most on free-to-air TV: commercials. But no
way, commercials are here to stay  although they will have to change.
Last year, 1.2 million commercials annoyed the country's viewers on free
TV, assembled in blocks of up to 4 minutes length. The extraordinary
length of commercial breaks is mainly caused by domestic and European law,
allowing only a limited number of commercial breaks during movies and most
other programming.
Leo Kirch's digital package DF1, due to start in July, will mainly depend
on subscription fees, but also hopes for revenues from airing commercials.
Unless on free-to-air channels, they will not interrupt movies or other
programmes, and there will be no more that just a minute at a time  the
equivalent of three commercials in a row. Instead, companies will have the
opportunity to lease a channel of their own where they can present
so-called infomercials of up to 30 minutes length. Although this sounds
highly illegal under current law, not much resistance is to be expected by
politicians. Not only do they hope for new jobs to be created by the new
digital services, they also fear overseas competitors intruding the

ACT almost gone
Reception quality of Russian private channel ACT on GALS 1 (36E) has
rapidly decreased, at least in Berlin. Even with a 3.6-metre dish, there's
not much left to be seen at 12.169 GHz rhc. Even news channel NTV on
11.844 GHz lhc produces better reception results. (Norbert Schlammer)

Thaiwave almost gone?
Would-be pay TV Thaiwave still shows no signs of serious intention to
scramble its signal at 11.163 GHz h on EUTELSAT II-F3 (16E.) Instead,
broadcasting hours seem to be reduced systematically. While Stefan
Hagedorn observed the channel's closedown at 2100 UTC yesterday, Norbert
Schlammer today reported the broadcasts to have started at 1900 UTC. In
that case, the channel would be on air for just two hours a day.
Extrapolating this trend, it may approach zero real soon.

Zeroes and Ones

CompuServe looses money
Now we know. CompuServe Corp., the World's number two online service that
went public in April, reported a fiscal 1996 fourth-quarter net loss of
US$1.1 million. It was the first public earnings report by the company
which blames the loss on increased marketing, customer service and network
infrastructure costs. One year earlier, the net loss was US$58.4 million.
CompuServe CEO Bob Massey announced hat his service "will significantly
step up marketing efforts within the next month."
For the year, CompuServe's net income was $49.1 million. The number of
CompuServe subscribers world-wide reportedly surpassed five million during
the company's fourth fiscal quarter.

Thanks to our contributors --
Jitse Groen: jgl@dds.nl
Stefan Hagedorn: DXStefan@aol.com 
Norbert Schlammer: 100415.3560@compuserve.com

Copyright 1996 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.

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