Sat-ND, 28.11.96

Sat-ND 96-11-28 - Satellite and Media News

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Cluster project revived
The European Space Agency (ESA) officially announced it will carry on with
its Cluster satellite project that once was designed to explore the impact
of solar winds on the Earth. The project was believed to be dead after the
four non-insured scientific satellites were lost during the ill-fated
maiden flight of Europe's new carrier rocket Ariane 5. ESA officials now
announced they want to launch replacement satellites as soon as 2000,
although the final decision on the ECU210 million (US$270) is expected for
February 1997.
The number of satellites to be launched is yet unclear as it depends on
what version of the Ariane rocket will be used. Only Ariane 5 would be
capable of putting four of them into orbit, but ESA would not exclude an
Ariane 4 launch.

Rus to replace Soyuz
Russian officials have introduced a new carrier rocket based upon the Soyuz
launcher that has been in service for nearly 30 years. Of course, the
rocket design has been updated many times over this period. But there will
be a new version called Rus or Soyuz-2 that finally will enable launching
manned spacecraft from Russia's Plessetsk cosmodrome. The third stage of
the rocket has been completely re-designed, and reportedly the launcher
will also have some kind of on-board computer, reported Chinese news ageny
Xinhua. First test flights have been announced for next year.

Asia for just US$9.99
Direct-to-home satellite television service Alphastar today launched the
Asian Television Network (ATN.) It will be offered 24-hours a day, seven
days a week in several major South Asian languages as well as English. The
programming includes South Asian movies, sports, news, music, dance,
children's TV and talk shows. It will also feature the international
programming service of India's Doordarshan broadcasting organisation, a
network that reaches 900 million people across the Indian subcontinent. The
cost of the Asian Television Network is $9.99 per month.
ATN's launch represents AlphaStar's second recent entree into the world of
multicultural programming. On November 8, 1996, the company introduced
three channels produced by the Egyptian Radio & Television Union in Cairo,
Egypt (Sat-ND, 8.11.96.)
ATN, a Canadian-based company, produces and distributes television
programming and related entertainment to the South Asian community on a
global basis. The company owns one of the most extensive multi-language
South Asian programme libraries in North America.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is disturbed about the fact that
hard liquor distillers have begun using TV commercials to advertise their
products. This is by no means forbidden, at least not yet, but so far the
companies had exerted some kind of self-censorship on themselves. No
The FTC said it will examine the content of the incriminated commercials as
well as their possible effect on underage viewers which, to my knowledge,
aren't allowed to buy liquor anyway. The Federal Communications Commission
(FCC) said it would also investigate the issue after being urged to do so
by a group of more than two dozen U.S. congressmen.

Disney incomes explode
The merger with ABC/Capital Cities seems to pay off for Walt Disney Co. The
company reported a net income of US$354 million in its fourth fiscal
quarter, up 60 percent from last year's figures. Operating income rose by
27 percent, revenues by 12 percent. The merger also influenced the results
of the complete fiscal year: net income (US$1.35 billion) increased 12
percent, and so did revenues (US$5.3 billion.)
Oh yes, and there was the Dalai Lama movie (Sat-ND, 26.11.96.) It seems
Walt Disney Co. has decided to stick with a film on the life of Tibet's
former leader despite criticism from the Chinese government. The movie,
however, would only be distributed in the United States anyway.

Microsoft: Moo, too
Microsoft Corp. plans to launch a dedicated TV channel targeted at an
estimated audience of 40,000 software developers in German-speaking
countries in Europe. The software giant will utilise the digital TV
infrastructure of Pro Sieben Digital Media GmbH, offering training and
information services for computer professionals. 
Pro Sieben, one of the three leading commercial channels in Germany,
scrapped plans for a digital TV package earlier this year and announced it
would concentrate on business TV applications instead.

New German mad cow package announced
ARD, the association of regional German pubcasters, will team up with the
national public broadcaster ZDF to set up a digital bouquet that will
initially consist of 13 TV channels. It is slated to launch in August 1997
during the consumer electronics fair in Berlin. The fact that the package
will be available via satellite only for the time being is regarded a major
drawback -- there is no agreement yet with Deutsche Telekom to have the
service distributed via their almost nation-wide cable network as well.
Both ARD and ZDF have also agreed on technical standards for a no-nonsense
digital decoder (Sat-ND, 22.11.96,) and even other free-TV channels
reportedly are also interested in using the box. The "Volksdecoder" would
be capable of receiving free-to-air TV only although there's suddenly also
talk about a slot that would allow upgrading to pay-TV services by
inserting a module. While this idea was probably introduced to make the
gadget more attractive to manufacturers, it's yet unknown how this could
technically be achieved. 
Industry representatives nonetheless remained sceptical. They indicated
that a certain consumer demand was necessary for them to start the
production of the new box (although strictly speaking some companies
haven't always stuck to this principle, offering new fancy gadgets that in
the end nobody really wanted.) Of course, the public demand would be
inversely proportional to the retail price, but as to that there's still
not a single serious figure available. Experts doubt that the initial
target price of just DM200 (US$130) for the decoder can be achieved.

Re: Sat-DN, 27.11.96 [BBC, Channel 5 deal]
You wrote: "The deal, which is estimated at some 26 million pounds (US$16
million,)..." Did you change the amounts or did you do a division instead
of a multiply, as the pound is worth more than a US dollar. 26 million
pounds=US $43,6 million. (Martijn de Jong)
[Sat-ND is the only newsletter that guarantees you at least one error per
day! 26 million pounds is correct, so it should indeed read US$43. Thank
you very much for the correction. -- Ed.]

By Dr Sarmaz <DrSarmaz@aol.com>

Think big
If you want to do business with Rupert Murdoch, you better think big in the
first place. Japan's Softbank Corp. (not a bank, by the way, but the
world's largest publisher on computer-related magazines and books) has to
raise almost half a billion US dollars for its joint digital TV venture
with Mr Murdoch's News Corps. 
Softbank said it would issue 4.2 million new shares and additionally float
convertible funds worth some US$90 to finance the venture. Following the
announcement that raised some concern among analysts and investors,
Softbank shares dropped as much as US$8.
The complete launch of JSkyB is estimated to cost some US$900 million.

Zeroes and Ones
By Grandpa Zheng <http://www.sat-net.com/pck/zheng/>

Rubbish from record companies
The music industry is concerned the Internet might affect their profits.
Philippe Kern of the Dutch record company PolyGram said rules had to be
rewritten because new technologies now allowed consumers of popular music
to pull audio off the Internet and the electronic marketplace. "We're
shifting towards a marketplace where you will be able to access music not
only in retail but also through your computer or television screens."
Oh yes... in theory. Record companies have never been able to really
control piracy, and this problem definitely is older than the Internet. So
there's nothing really new here except for the fact that the Internet
probably is the worst place to offer pirated records.
Okay, it's possible to download some low-fidelity audio files pretty fast.
But when it comes to CD quality, just forget it. I have a CD-quality,
stereo start sound for Windows 95 that lasts less than four seconds. The
size of this file is almost 700,000 bytes. So just image how huge a high
fidelity version of any average song with a length of some four minutes
would be. Anyway, just downloading it would take several hours. (To whom it
may concern: This holds not only true for providers using Alternet but for
millions of average customers all around the globe.) And don't tell me
about Real Audio and other compression techniques: they still sound like
short-wave radio to me.

AOL Germany reaches break-even
Online services have had a bad time in the USA, but things are going well
in Europe -- at least for AOL. Its German joint venture with Bertelsmann AG
has reached break-even just one year after its launch. There are 200,000
subscribers in Germany alone, and they even seem to stay with the service
longer than expected. 100,000 customers more customers have subscribed to
the service in other countries following the service's international start
in Europe ten months ago. Today, special versions of the service for
Austria and Switzerland were officially launched. 
Back in the U.S., AOL has posted a loss of US$354 million during the last
fiscal quarter after taking a huge one-time charge for marketing costs.
Besides, it also laid off 300 employees.

Monaco online
Stephanie Boy sent the editor of this so-called newsletter an email today.
Its subject read "news magazine for tv and new media profesional on line,"
and the body just consisted of this URL:
Don't be shy, visit them, it's in English -- but unfortunately not really
up to date. The latest news you get are from October. At least, this adds
another country to my collection of somehow exotic places on the World Wide
The Monaco server wasn't set up by the government, by the way, but
nonetheless offers comprehensive information on the country with the
highest proportion of tennis players and Formula 1 pilots amongst its
Speaking of Formula 1, this could become my favourite Web site in 1997 once
the season starts:
Very promising indeed!

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

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