Sat-ND, 26.3.97

Sat-ND 97-03-26 - Satellite and Media News

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Arianespace expects up to 250 satellites to be put into orbit by 2004.
This is the result of a study published by the European launch service
provider today. Last year, a total of 48 satellites were launched with
Ariane (Europe,) Atlas, Delta (USA,) Proton (Russia,) Long March (China,)
and H2 (Japan;) a figure up 20 percent from last year. The market share
of Arianespace has remained at 60 percent. 
Currently, 84 satellites are waiting to be launched, 40 of them aboard
Ariane rockets. The study expects satellites to get heavier: around 2000,
a new class of spacecraft could emerge with an average weight of 4.5
tonnes each.

The Russian Space Agency also had some figures to present today.
According to a spokesman, Russian boosters will put into orbit 30
foreign-made satellites in 1997  that's more than over the past 24
years. 26 of the flights will be made from the Baikonur cosmodrome in
Kazakhstan with Proton rockets, though. 17 of the satellites launched
from there are of U.S. origin.
The launching scheme is ambitious, but probably everybody knows that it
will experience delays. Among the curiosities are an American
communications sub-satellite called FiSat-2B, which will be launched as
piggyback load of a Russian KOSMOS (spy?) satellite, and a Swedish
spacecraft called Astrid-2 (but not Lindgren.) 

As expected, France's Alcatel Espace will become a subcontractor for two
INTELSAT satellites to be launched in 2000. The U.S. company Space
Systems/Loral (SS/L) will build the spacecraft of the INTELSAT IX series
while Alcatel will supply its communication repeater modules. Alcatel's
share in the US$600-million contract is at about 37 percent (US$220
million.) The work will be carried out at its plant in Toulouse, southern
France, in less than 28 months, Alcatel said. 

The intention of a Bavarian state-owned bank to help German media mogul
Leo Kirch with a DM500 million (US$300 million) loan (Sat-ND, 24.3.97)
has sparked off a nation-wide row. However, the Bavarian government that
has to approve the loan today said it will not decide upon the matter
until Prime Minister Stoiber has returned from vacation. Meanwhile, a
Kirch spokesman confirmed the loan would also be used to fund the
fledgling digital TV service DF1.
Maybe it is even pretty irrelevant what the Bavarians decide. As Kirch is
known as a close friend of the (conservative) governments in Munich and
Bonn, nothing can be expected from both; but the European Commission (EC)
is also strongly interested in what is going on. It is reportedly going
to ask German authorities to release information on the loan. Under its
charter, the EC must examine all loans that could involve state
The fact that Kirch wants to borrow money is not a sensation in itself,
he always did. What's puzzling his competitors as well as observers is
the fact that his long-time partners, above all the DG Bank, don't seem
to be willing to pay for his digital TV experiments that so far produced
just 30,000 subscribers and an estimated loss of DM1 million per day.

The U.S. digital TV provider Primestar has successfully transitioned its
DTH satellite TV service to its permanent home on GE-2. But it's not just
a switch of satellites that will officially take place next month.
The transition required several long-term initiatives including building
out an entirely new control room to accommodate 65 new channels and
transitioning to a temporary home on K-2 for several months. While 95
channels are currently transmitted from GE-2, new channels are being
added and tested daily. The final move will be made on April 20, when
PRIMESTAR illuminates more than 55 of the planned 65 new channels and
"flips the switch" on the reorganisation of channels by programming
category. Additional pay-per-view channels will be added this summer, the
company announced.

If Rupert Murdoch were to start a digital TV business in India, what
would it be called? If you can answer this question within three seconds,
you win a free subscription to that service. Onetwothree  no sorry, too
late, the answer of course is ISkyB.
As usual, Mr Murdoch will pump hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars into
the venture which will be broadcast on seven transponders of PAS 4
(68.5E.) To be operated by Star TV, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mr
Murdoch's News Corp, the venture still needs a license from the Indian
government  not really to broadcast via satellite, but to sell or rent
decoders and cash in subscriber fees. 
As usual, digital pay-TV means TV for the rich. An ISkyB subscriber would
have to pay US$335 for the reception equipment plus an additional fee of
around US$14 per month. Not too many of India's TV households will be
able to afford that, but it doesn't really matter as long as those who
can afford it do subscribe. They will receive the usual blend of U.S. and
U.K. programming; Fox Kids Network, STAR World, NBC, CNBC, Granada TV and
Bloomberg Information TV, along with a history channel, a computer
programmes channel and the first 24-hour Indian news channel. Yawn  just
another major repackaging operation to squeeze the last dollar out of
existing programming assets.
Of course, it's no surprise at all that a PanAmSat satellite was chosen
to carry ISkyB. The first commercial provider of global satellite
services is even devoting its PAS 6 satellite (to be launched early next
May) with 36 Ku-band transponders entirely to the Latin America DTH
partnership of Mr Murdoch's News Corp., Mexico's Grupo Televisa, Brazil's
Organizacoes Globo and the USA's Tele-Communications International.
Located at 43W, PAS 6 will deliver DTH television services throughout
South America under the brand name Sky Entertainment Services. 
PAS 4, launched in August 1995, carries 16 C-band and 24 Ku-band
transponders aboard. The satellite was also the transmission platform for
direct-to-home services in South Africa and the Middle East, PanAmSat
said. The company will expand its satellite services in the Indian Ocean
region with the launch of PAS 7, scheduled for early 1998. It would
co-positioned to PAS 4 to facilitate expansion both for C-band program
distribution and Ku-band direct-to-home services, the company said.

Almost immediately after went on air, DirecTV, the first digital DTH
service in the U.S., had to realise that the encryption technology
provided by News Datacom wasn't as safe as claimed. On the contrary.
Hughes' DirecTV and Rupert Murdoch's News Datacom as co-plaintiff still
keep on filing lawsuits against individuals and entities allegedly
involved in "illegal signal piracy activities." Recently, the companies
took nine more individuals and companies to court, this time in Los
In a similar case in Seattle, DirecTV and News Datacom have settled their
civil claims against two defendants. Both obviously are not only
delivering a payment "in six figures" to DirecTV and News Datacom. "We
look forward to the cooperation of [the former defendants] in our
on-going prosecution of the remaining defendants in this matter," said
said Steve Cox, senior vice president and general counsel for DirecTV.

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

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