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Sat-ND, 3.2.97




Sat-ND 97-02-03 - Satellite and Cheese News

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Free Digital Hotline Opened
Mike Bauerfeind, author of the most-respected daily news service on digital TV,
has opened a telephone hotline for anyone seeking information and help
regarding digital TV. He can be contacted on Wednesdays 5 to 7 p.m. CET and
Saturdays 1 to 4 p.m. CET at telephone: +49-341-2412446. If you don't speak
German, try to speak simple English. Mike tries his best to understand English
language questions, and to answer them. 
Mike is author of the news service SAT-digital, a daily update on what can be
received with the "d-box" and how to program the box to receive those channels.
To subscribe to his German-language news service free of charge, visit the
homepage of TELE-satellite International magazine at
http://www.TELE-satellite.com



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COLUMBIA MAY ORDER NEW SATELLITES
The TDRS satellites are usually considered NASA spacecraft, especially because
TDRS stands for Tracking and Data Relay Satellite. NASA missions supported by
the system include spacecraft such as the Hubble Telescope, the Space Shuttle,
GRO, LANDSAT, TOPEX, and EUVE -- they are listed at
http://wscproj.gsfc.nasa.gov/customer.htm. (Actually, the very satellites are
called TDR, but nobody really cares, not even NASA. You may as well encounter
the incorrect abbreviation TDRSS which actually stands for Tracking and Data
Relay Satellite System.) However, at least some of the satellites are actually
operated by Columbia Communications Corp. and used for commercial purposes,
such as the transmission of the pay-radio service DMX to Europe. And there are
even more satellites to come. 
According to Columbia, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has
granted waivers that allow the company to order two more satellites. "There are
still some technical elements regarding frequency assignment that must be
resolved, but the FCC recognizes our schedule to have both satellites
commissioned before the turn of the century," Columbia said in a press
statement, adding that regulatory processing is required. 
The new Columbia/TDRS satellites will incorporate the latest technological
advances in satellite design and construction and significantly expand the
coverage currently provided by the current TDRS satellite system. They will be
positioned at 172(?)W (operating in conventional and extended C-Band as well
as Ku-Band frequencies) and at 47E (just conventional and extended C-band.)


CANAL+ RESTRUCTURING
It is easy get an idea of the structure of the French electronic media market
because all major companies are in a way interconnected. At the same time, that
makes it extremely difficult to write about it.
Even though one of the major players, Compagnie Générale des Eaux, seems
inclined to sell its stake in pay-TV giant Canal+ to Havas SA, the scene will
not become less complicated. At the same time Générale des Eaux would take over
Havas shares so far held by Alcatel-Alsthom as well as new shares from a stock
appreciation. Thus Générale des Eaux would become the largest Havas
shareholder.
Both Générale des Eaux and Havas have confirmed they are in talks about the
deal but declined to give any further comment.
At the same time, several reports indicate that Canal+ and some other major
players, especially Italy's Silvio Berlusconi and Germany's Leo Kirch, were
planning a major disentanglement of their TV interests (Sat-ND, 27.1.97.)
For example, Canal+ and Kirch may swap their stakes in Germany's premiere and
Italy's Telepiú. Kirch would become largest premiere shareholder, and Canal+
would gain the same position at Telepiú. However, it is still unclear whether
Telepiú will keep its important terrestrial outlets, serving 800,000
subscribers, under dangling new media legislation. Direct-to-home satellite
reception still is a marginal factor in the Italian TV landscape. Maybe that's
why Canal+ now let it be known that they were never interested in a total
retreat from premiere.
As Silvio Berlusconi also is a Telepiú shareholder, it might be interesting to
know that he reportedly has agreed to give up his 33 percent stake in Deutsches
SportFernsehen, which is not only a Kirch-dominated sports channel but also
offers several sports channels within Kirch's digital pay-TV venture DF1.


ORION RAISED SOME MONEY
Orion Network Systems, Inc. announced today that it closed a public bond
offering of $710 million on January 31, 1997. Because of strong market demand,
it was more than double the amount requested in the Company's initial filing.
Net proceeds to the Company, after provision for certain pre-funded interest
payments, amounted to approximately $575 million.
Together with other available financing, the bond issue enables Orion to fulfil
its long term capital requirements for the establishment of a powerful
three-satellite global communication system covering approximately 85 percent
of the world's population. The proceeds will be utilised primarily to refinance
Orion's debt for the construction of the existing Orion 1 satellite and to
build and launch two additional satellites.
Orion's global communications system of three satellites will provide
international transmission of Internet traffic, private data and voice networks
for multinational businesses, world-wide transmission of video programming and
direct-to-home television services. It will, particularly, serve the fast
growing markets of Eastern Europe, Asia and South America, and will link the
United States with these areas. Orion says it also has additional orbital slots
available for expansion in both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean Regions.


COMMERCIAL TV WITHOUT COMMERCIALS
Ever since a certain Fred Kogel took up his job as director of programming at
commercial broadcaster SAT.1 in Germany, the station has experienced some
trouble. The audience share has dropped significantly, and even though
advertising revenues reached DM2.6 billion in 1996, it's getting harder to
attract customers. 
Now that almost everything Mr Kogel tried has failed, SAT.1 comes up with a
revolution: first-class movies without commercial breaks. The idea, however,
was presented by a south German brewery that will act as a sponsor to the four
"movie nights" that are planned in 1997. Commercials will be placed between the
movies but will not interrupt them. 
Finally, a clever move? The German audience still knows what uninterrupted
movies on TV look like as public broadcasters are not allowed to air any
commercials after 8 p.m. SAT.1's commercial competitors have, of course,
reacted unfavourably. "That's a step in the wrong direction," a spokeswoman for
MediaGruppe München (MGM) stated. "The move is counterproductive because the
audience has in the meantime learned how to cope with commercials." MGM is part
of the Pro Sieben mini-media empire set up by Thomas Kirch, son of SAT.1
shareholder Leo Kirch, who not only backs Fred Kogel but is also seeking
predominance over SAT.1.


LEO BUYS POLYGRAM RIGHTS
Is this Leo Watch or what? Fair enuff. Leo Kirch has acquired the exclusive
pay-TV rights from the Anglo-Dutch company PolyGram Filmed Entertainment. The
ten-year contract also includes pay-per-view, near video on demand and video on
demand rights for all movies PolyGram will release on the German market.


BEL CHEESE TO OPEN SATELLITE OFFICE IN NEW YORK AREA
FROMAGERIES BEL has announced further plans to integrate and streamline its
operations in the United States. In February, Fromageries Bel acquired Kaukauna
Cheese whose headquarters and single plant were located in Little Chute, Wis.
Kaukauna Cheese then became a division of Bel Cheese USA, Inc., which has its
headquarters in Ft. Lee, N.J.
In December, Bel Cheese USA made the decision to transfer the production of
Wispride(R) brand refrigerated spreads from Leitchfield, Ky. to the company's
Little Chute, Wis. plant. Following this transfer, the company considered other
opportunities to obtain synergies and to consolidate operations among its U.S.
locations.
Four major changes and improvements in U.S. operations are now planned:
1. The field sales force of Bel Cheese USA and Kaukauna Cheese will be
integrated and the staff will be reduced, effective immediately. Each region
manager will be responsible for the full Bel Kaukauna product line, generally
in a smaller geographic area.
2. Marketing for the Wispride(R) brand as well as for the Kaukauna(R) brand
will be handled in Little Chute, Wis. by the current Kaukauna marketing group.
3. Marketing for the Bel brands and the Price's(R) brands will be handled by
the current Bel Cheese USA team now responsible for these brands. This group
will occupy a satellite office in the New York area.
4. The remaining administrative positions in Fort Lee will be eliminated and
will be handled in Little Chute, Wis. effective April 1, 1997. The management
organization at the Leitchfield, Ky. plant will be restructured to be
consistent with that plant's level of activity.
Consequently, the Kaukauna Cheese offices in Little Chute will become the
headquarters for the U.S. operations of Fromageries Bel. The changes announced
today will create a more efficiently structured operation with two major
operating locations rather than three. Fromageries Bel also announced that the
name of its U.S. operations will become BEL / KAUKAUNA USA.
These actions will entail the loss of 29 jobs. All those employees who are
released will be offered financial and outplacement assistance to help with the
transition to other employment.
Patrick Robbe will undertake a new assignment with Fromageries Bel in France.
The President of Bel / Kaukauna USA will be Bob Gilbert, who has been the
president of Kaukauna Cheese.



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

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