Sat-ND, 27.1.97

Sat-ND 97-01-27 - Satellite and Media Flu

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Beware code hackerz, software pirates and pay-TV haters -- they're after you! 
A European association has been formed "to combat piracy of scrambled
audio-visual signals." The "Association Européenne pour la Protection des
Œuvres et services Cryptés" (AEPOC) announced to fight piracy by encouraging
anti-piracy legislation and by co-ordinating enforcement actions. AEPOC also
announced undertake research on piracy, and organise seminars and other
scientific activity.
AEPOC addresses audio-visual piracy which takes the form of hacked decoders
[shock! -- Ed.]  and smart cards [horror!! -- Ed.] and commercialisation of
these hacked products [§&#*:°%§$"!!! -- Ed.] AEPOC estimates in a press release
that losses "to the creative community, broadcasters and consumers from this
piracy exceed ECU200 million [US$250 million] each year within Europe." AEPOC
supports the work of the European Commission, as reflected in its 1996 Green
Paper, to introduce a EU measure against hacking. 
Carter Eltzroth, AEPOC's Executive Director, said, "Piracy already harms
scrambled services in European markets. Digital broadcasting will increase the
number of scrambled services and the commercial target for piracy will grow.
Moreover, new problems will arise because of standardisation of DVB consumer
equipment and the launch of new media services beyond classic broadcasting." 
Theo Peek, chairman of the DVB Project, welcomed the formation of AEPOC. "The
DVB Project has set the standard for the common scrambling algorithm for
digital video broadcasting. It has also made recommendations to the European
Commission on anti-piracy measures. AEPOC is an important, and necessary,
extension of the work of the DVB Project." Heck!, does it mean even those
digital transmissions can be hacked? Say no more!

Anyway, I still don't feel sorry for them, no matter how loud they moan -- at
least as long as two or three pay-TV giants divide the European market into
dozens of zones of influence. It is nothing but obscene to call for EU
regulation as long as there isn't a single European pay-TV package available.
To make this perfectly clear, here's the famous example: Anybody outside the
U.K. and Eire who wants to receive BSkyB channels still has no choice but to
use pirate (or illegally imported original) cards, no matter how much he or she
is willing to pay for a legal subscription. And, yes, many would pay if they
just were allowed to. This, of course, applies to almost any pay-TV service in
Europe, be it analogue or digital. 
Of course, the current situation is mainly caused by the policy of major U.S.
film studios and other software producers that sell TV rights country by
country and language by language. (Maybe the Scientology bills of some of those
Hollywood guys just got too high, eh?) To change that policy would be an even
more honourable feat any association set up by European pay-TV companies could
possibly perform. 
Of course, they wouldn't do that. Even original programming will still not be
delivered in a single European package. If Hollywood can make money from
splitting up markets, so can the European pay-TV giants. 

Panamsat Corp announced a new satellite-based Internet service called
"SPOTbytes". The service will offer international Internet service providers
(ISPs) high-speed [what else -- Ed.] satellite access and dedicated links to an
Internet backbone in the United States and other countries. As part of this new
service offering, PanAmSat has signed an agreement with UUNET Technologies,
Inc., of Fairfax, Va., to provide direct access to the U.S. Internet backbone. 
A typical SPOTbytes service might involve transmission of Internet traffic from
an overseas ISP to one of PanAmSat's U.S. teleport facilities via a PanAmSat
satellite. From the PanAmSat teleport, the traffic would then be routed to an
Internet service provider's point of presence in the United States. PanAmSat
owns and operates teleport facilities in Napa, Calif., Homestead, Florida, and
Ellenwood, Georgia. 
PanAmSat's high-powered satellites will provide high data-rate pipes to meet
the growing demand from ISPs around the world. The SPOTbytes name is based on
the cartoon character "My Dog Spot", an opinionated dog created by PanAmSat's
late founder Rene Anselmo. A press release explains this as follows: "Spot's
likeness is a long-standing PanAmSat emblem for the company's entrepreneurial
approach and intolerance of bureaucracy. It can also be found as PanAmSat's
trading symbol on the Nasdaq National Market and on every rocket that launches
a PanAmSat satellite." [Woof! -- Ed.]
UUNET Technologies Inc., by the way, is the world's largest provider of
Internet services, offering a comprehensive range of access options, World Wide
Web hosting services, security products and consulting services to businesses,
professionals and on-line service providers. 
[No, I am not going to comment on the subject of Internet access via
geostationary satellites again. Looking at my latest traceroute results for
U.S. servers, the only thing I'd like to say is "From here we can only go up."
-- Ed.]

In a move to streamline its international channel line-up, NBC will abandon its
Latin American service Canal de Noticias in favour of CNBC and MSNBC. "Canal de
Noticias was founded on a great idea and it opened the door for NBC's launch
into Latin America," the Hollywood Reporter quoted CNBC president Bill Bolster.
"Now we have MSNBC, and that changes the whole game." 
NBC will extend the cable distribution of CNBC and MSNBC in co-operation with
local partners instead .

The UK's fifth terrestrial TV network, Channel 5, is pleased with the results
of a test broadcast carried out yesterday London and the surrounding area
(Sat-ND, 24.1.97.) There were 45,000 calls yesterday but only 13,000 reported
interference problems -- less than predicted. [One might just wonder what the
other callers had to report, then. -- Ed.]
"We are pleased that the number of households apparently needing retuning is
significantly lower than most predictions," said Sally Osman, head of Channel
5. Britain's fifth terrestrial television channel is likely to launch in late
March. Its license requires it to retune devices such as VCRs and satellite
receivers in up to 12 million homes. 

[From this point onward, there's nothing but German news. You might as well
stop reading. Sorry! -- Ed.]

Herbert Kloiber has bought back a 50 percent in Tele München Gruppe (TMG) from
Disney/ABC. TMG is one of Germany's leading investors in TV production,
channels and licenses. "When CapCities/ABC sold to Disney, Disney already had a
different position in Europe," Kloiber said. "Our partnership became obsolete
and nonsensical." The interesting thing, however, is that the television
ventures RTL2 and TM3 are not affected. Kloiber and Disney/ABC hold 50 percent
each of a holding company called TM Media, which owns 32.4 percent in RTL2 and
50 percent in TM3.
This affects the composition of the upcoming RTL holding company that will
include RTL, Super RTL and RTL2. As reported (Sat-ND, 11.1.97,) Disney/ABC
wants to have a bigger say in that holding, reportedly claiming up to 50
percent. A compromise might look like this: 50 percent plus 1 share for
Ufa/CLT, 39.5 percent for Disney ABC, with the reaming stock split up between
minor shareholders.

Canal + has half-heartedly denied reports it would sell its stakes in Germany's
pay TV channel premiere and the commercial channel Vox. German magazine Focus
claimed Canal + was willing to sell its 37.5 percent stake in premiere to Leo
Kirch, who already owns 25 percent of the pay-TV operator. Focus also said that
Canal + was no longer willing to finance losses at commercial network Vox where
it holds a 24.9 percent stake. Other Vox shareholders include Ufa/CLT and
Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Ltd. as majority shareholder.
Pierre Lescure, chairman of Canal Plus, told the French newspaper Figaro today
all speculation was premature. premiere, now with over 1.4 million subscribers,
 was doing well and is likely to break even this year. A Canal + spokeswoman,
however, would not directly deny the company's intention to withdraw from Vox.
She admitted that selling the stake was considered an option but not imminent.
Canal +, which recently announced to merge with pay-TV company NetHold, had for
a long time been regarded as a close ally of Bertelsmann and its subsidiary
Ufa. Following Ufa's merger with Luxembourg's CLT, Canal + moved towards Leo
Kirch. NetHold/Canal + will, for instance, hold a combined stake of 45 percent
in the Italian pay-TV venture Telepiù where Leo Kirch is a major shareholder.
Canal + offspring multiThématiques has announced to use Kirch's decoder
platform in Germany. 

One might think that Canal + and Kirch would join their forces now to control
premiere. But the German TV landscape defies all logic: premiere will use a
different decoder for its digital package. What's more, the premiere management
has launched at least three lawsuits against Kirch's digital service DF1. Under
a court injunction, DF1 was stopped from marketing its services outside Bavaria
(Sat-ND, 22.1.97.) 
Now, Kirch wants to get rid of Bernd Kundrun, the head of premiere, claiming he
acted in the interests of Bertelsmann and Canal + against Kirch. Kirch's lawyer
Theye has asked Bertelsmann and Canal + to support the move. As the German news
magazine Der Spiegel reports, both rejected Kirch's demands.

Copyright 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.

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