Sat-ND, 22.10.96

Sat-ND 96-10-22 - Satellite and Media News

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Ariane flight 92 on November 13
According to Arianespace, the next launch of the European carrier rocket
Ariane will take place on November 13. Two satellites will be put into
orbit on this 92nd flight: ARABSAT 2B (Arab League) and MEASAT 2
(Malaysia.) The satellites' predecessors ARABSAT 2A and MEASAT 1 were
launched by Ariane rockets last July and January respectively.

Who'll run USA Network?
One of the larger U.S. cable channels, USA Network, is at the centre of a
legal battle between two media giants. The highly profitable partnership
between MCA, now 80 percent owned by Canadian distiller Seagram, and Viacom
Inc. broke apart earlier this year when MCA complained about Viacom's
channels TV Land and even MTV. MCA claimed were competing with USA Network
which would constitute a breech of the companies' partnership agreement.
MCA filed a lawsuit against Viacom, demanding the company either sell its
own networks, its stake in USA networks, or buy MCA out. Viacom reacted
with another lawsuit concerning some financial details of the partnership.
Both companies have stated they want to run USA Network on their own. 
The court case started last week, and it is expected to be finished next
month. It also involves Seagram's 15 percent stake in Time Warner which,
following the merger with Turner Broadcasting Systems, became  the world's
largest media company. Time Warner now owns TNT, TBS SuperStation and HBO,
as well as stakes in Comedy Central and E!, all of which may be considered
competitors of USA Network in one way or another.

DASA may call off merger with Aérospatiale
The merger of the missile and satellite businesses of France's Aérospatiale
SA and Germany's Daimler-Benz Aerospace AG (DASA) may be called off
following the French government's decision to award defence contractor
Thomson SA to Lagardere Group.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a DASA spokesman said "We wanted to
have a leading market position in Europe [...] but there's now a very
changed situation" that would have to be examined very carefully. An
Aérospatiale spokeswoman said her company wasn't worried about the pending
merger, adding it was too early to assess the impact of the
Lagardere-Thomson decision.
Officials of both companies now seem to wait for the result of a summit
between French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl
in December.
Should the merger be cancelled, Germany might also drop out of the
development of the common spy satellite system called HELIOS 2. Both deals,
the Aérospatiale/DASA merger and HELIOS 2, are closely interconnected.

At the pyramids
Egypt, although having banned satellite reception partially, has some plans
with its NILESAT satellites, due to be launched in late 1997 and likely to
be positioned at 7W. Most of the programming available will be produced
locally in Sixth of October City, a satellite[!] city near Cairo.
The production complex, dubbed "Hollywood on the Nile," will consist of six
television studios, administrative buildings, workshops and support
facilities. It will likely be set up by a British-based consortium led by
Sony Broadcast and Professional. It had put in a bid of 1,097 million
Egyptian pounds (US$323 million) for the contract, about 10 percent lower
than a bid by an Dutch-French consortium comprising Philips and BTS.
The Egypt ban on satellite reception so far only applies to some scrambled
television signals broadcast by satellite, mainly adult material. Satellite
dishes are freely available and the government said will not attempt to
restrict access to television stations which broadcast unscrambled signals.

DF1 raises subscription fees
Some experts argue Leo Kirch, who celebrated his 70th birthday yesterday,
isn't interested in selling decoders for his digital TV bouquet DF1 at all.
The set-top boxes (available at DM890, about US$600) are heavily
subsidised, and besides they're almost nowhere to be bought.
For the last few weeks, DF1 officials have given the number of subscribers
as 10,000 although 200,000 were expected by the end of the year. It's
unlikely that DF1 will meet this goal although there are new channels to be
added in November, among them BBC Prime. At least one of them (Sky News) is
also available freely. Channels from U.S. companies such as MCA Universal,
Walt Disney and Time Warner are expected to be introduced in January.
Generally, things become more complicated for the subscriber -- and more
expensive. The entire package will now be offered for DM50 per month (until
now: DM30.) Reportedly, DF1 also thinks of reducing the price for set-top
boxes by a few hundred DM. The lower price, however, will probably apply
only for customers who at the same time subscribe to DF1. Which is only
logical, because the receiver can't receive almost anything else but
Kirch's channels.

By Dr Sarmaz <DrSarmaz@aol.com>

Bloomberg joins BSkyB
According to newspaper reports, Mr Murdoch's BSkyB has reached a deal with
Bloomberg to set up a business channel. Targeted at the UK, it would be
broadcast around the clock. Obviously, this version would be different from
Bloomberg's U.S. Business TV that, by the way, is already available on some
British cable networks (and, if I remember it correctly, on the Internet.)

Just to put things straight...
A recent article here in Sat-ND was at least a bit misleading, if not
totally screwed up. I am referring to "Murdoch's other Sky" (18.10.96.) So
far, Sky Network TV of New Zealand is not owned by Rupert Murdoch (well,
the name of the company just confused me, and New Zealand is far away.) 
Sky Network TV, the country's largest pay-TV operator, is half owned by a
consortium of U.S.-based telecommunications companies such as Bell
Atlantic, Ameritech, Time Warner and Tele-Communications Inc. They have
indicated to be willing to sell their stake, however, and that's where Mr
Murdoch (or rather: his Independent Newspapers Ltd., INL) come in. INL is
indeed negotiating to buy a substantial shareholding in Sky Network TV. So,
Sky may meet Sky in the end.

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

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