Sat-ND, 26.2.97

Sat-ND 97-02-26 - Rupert and Murdoch News

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Digital TV has its uncertainties. Nobody should know better than Britain's
leading manufacturer of satellite receivers and decoders, Pace Micro
Technology, which was nearly halved in value within less than a month.
The problems started just three weeks ago when Pace issued a warning that
profits for the full year would not be ahead of expectations as previously
thought. As a matter of fact, Pace already offers digital set-top boxes, but
digital TV had a slow start in many countries. 
Today, Pace's joint chief executive and co-founder Barry Rubery resigned
because of "irreconcilable differences of management style". Within those three
weeks, Pace's shares dropped by 40 percent, letting some hundreds of million
pounds of its former value vanish without trace. 
The company said it remained "confident" about the prospects for digital TV. It
intends to introduce its much advertised "common platform" digital receiver
which combines both digital terrestrial and digital satellite or cable
reception technology at the Cable & Satellite exhibition next April.

A local newspaper mentioned that the Danish TV-Sportskanalen (TVS) will start
from the orbital position "Fem grader øst", supposedly using TELE-X, on March
14. It was originally planned to start broadcasting on March 1 from THOR II at
The owners are Danmarks Radio (DR,) the commercial channel TV2, DBU (the Danish
soccer union) holding 20 percent of shares each, and Tele Danmark with the rest
of the shares. The channel will be free until August 1. However, no
transmission standard was mentioned (anything but PAL or more likely D2MAC
would be suicide).
The program will consist mainly of Danish sports, but Premier League has been
mentioned as well (and movies, as far as I remember... hmmm... sports
channel?). The channel will be on cable (around 750,000 households) and on
satellite (around 250,000 households of which only around 50,000 are able to
receive TELE-X/SIRIUS), so no wonder that it's for free in the beginning.
However a campaign to let dish-owner upgrade to 5E-reception at a fair cost is
planned for next spring.
They plan to broadcast 50 hours a week initially. From August, the subscription
fee will be dkr150 a month, which in my humble opinion is way above what
viewers (at least me) are prepared to fork out for something that has been
included in the TV-licence in the past.
Mogens Poulsen
[Thank you very much for this contribution. A similar venture in the
Netherlands turned out to be rather short-lived as viewers there may have
undertaken similar considerations. -- Ed.]

Even Rupert Murdoch had to experience that trying to enter the Indian TV market
was rather a tedious task. Officials just keep moaning. "Unfortunately,
everybody is showing things which is against the culture and tradition of the
country. We cannot allow everybody to broadcast whatever they want," noted
Information and Broadcasting Minister Chand Mahal Ibrahim recently. "There has
to be some regulation for the entry of foreign media."
The government recently announced talks with the opposition parties on a
broadcast bill that would permit commercial radio and television stations. So
far, they have to lease air time from India's state-run broadcaster
Foreign satellite uplinks from Indian soil, however, are taboo anyway. The
well-known digital TV service DirecTV seems to have found a way to circumvent
current regulations. First, it teamed up with Modi Entertainment Network (MEN),
a part of the domestic K.K. Modi group. 
Now, it found some capacity -- on a Thai satellite thanks to its operator
Shinawatra which was eyeing the Indian market anyway. THAICOM 3, due to be
launched next March, will supply the venture with seven Ku-band transponders,
allowing some 50 channels to be broadcast. The uplink will most likely be
located in Bangkok.
One of its competitors, Rupert Murdoch's Star TV, has already secured seven
Ku-band transponders on PAS-4 for its digital Asian digital TV platform. All of
these ventures may beam programming to India, but as the are pay-TV, they still
need government approval to cash in the money from the audience. Thus, much
depends on the outcome of the proposed broadcasting bill. It currently seems as
though India will license at least two of these services for a license fee of
some US$30 million per year. 
Undoubtedly there will be some programming of a more or less "local" nature,
even though we're talking about a sub-continent here. The rest will comprise
the usual mixture of U.S. channels. For example, Modi Entertainment holds the
exclusive distribution rights for the U.S. sports channel ESPN. And what else
will be in their digital bouquet? CNN, TNT, Cartoon Network, MTV, Nickelodeon,
Of course, all the other digital TV services known from the USA are interested
in India, too. All their plans usually include major investments in India,
promising not only to set up subscription management there but also to
manufacture antennas and set-top boxes within the country. Industry sources
were quoted as saying that Star TV alone was prepared to invest about US$450
million in the DTH sector alone in India.

FEEDBACK -- Sat-ND, 24.2.97
"Your item on the VOA contained a minor factual error. The salient number is
$250,000 rather than $25,000. Your comment about independent television was a
little ignorant. What about TV stations who take BBC programming? Are they less
than independent? How about stations taking programming from DW?"
Kenneth R. Donow
[Thank you for the correction; US$250,000 indeed is the correct figure. Sorry!
I also admit that my question ("how independent are they if they take over U.S.
made programming?") should have read "how independent are they if they take
over any foreign programming?" I would have asked the same question if those
stations received BBC or DW programming that, and this is important, is
produced especially for them. In my opinion, this isn't international
broadcasting in the usual sense. -- Ed.]


A few more reports came in regarding the announcements Rupert Murdoch made on a
gathering of investors and analysts in Los Angeles on Monday. 
For example, News Corp. plans to spend more than US$60 (sixty) million on TV
programming development in 1998. Please don't email me about any missing
zeroes; I do not know how they can get along with that even though news
agencies said this was more than twice of the amount they spent this year. 
Another striking fact was that American Sky Broadcasting president Preston
Padden has been named president of world-wide satellite operations for News
Corp. So, what exactly is so striking there? It's the attribute world-wide, of
News Corp. and its partners MCI and EchoStar will have at least seven
satellites serving the USA -- but will there be more, even in other parts of
the world? Mr Murdoch has in the past complained about high leasing rates for
satellite capacity in Europe. His pay-TV venture BSkyB exclusively uses ASTRA
satellites supplied by Luxembourg's SES and was in fact the company's first
major customer.
A few more details on the new digital TV service by News Corp., MCI and
Echostar: the companies expect to reach 8 million households by 2001 and
generate cash flow of US$1 billion by 2002. The current market leader, DirecTV,
has so far attracted 2.4 million subscribers.

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

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