Sat-ND, 23.6.97

Sat-ND 97-06-23 - Now I'm gonna pack my things and go
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*** Sat-ND summer break: June 24 - July 9, 1997 ***

Editorial note
Well, that's it. I'm off! Sat-ND will be back by July 10. 
Should I happen to run across an Internet Cafe or something similar, I'll
send you a virtual postcard.
My apologies to anybody who sent me email but hasn't received an answer
yet. I'll try to answer some before I finally leave. Please bear with me
Just for the holiday bit: http://www.explore-poland.pl/

Flight 96 of the European Ariane rocket with INTELSAT 802 on board is
scheduled for next Wednesday (Thursday UTC,) Arianespace said. The launch
window will be open from 20:45 to 21:41 local time in Kourou, French
INTELSAT 802, built by Lockheed Martin Telecommunications, will provide
telephone and television services to the Indian ocean region.

According to news agency Xinhua, the launch service provider China Great
Wall Industrial Corporation (CGWIC) was chosen by Hughes Space and
Communications to put ten satellites into orbit between the second half of
1998 and 2006. The contract that was signed last Saturday calls for a
series of five launches with China's Long March rockets and includes five
launch options. According to the overall performance of this launch
vehicle, at least two of the planned satellites will not reach their proper
CGWIC has been working with Hughes since 1988. Following the recent
successful launches of the two indigenous satellites DONGFANGHONG 3 and
FENGYUN 2, China is expected to take up commercial launch services again
later this year.

DirecTV has some ambitious plans for expanding its U.S. digital TV service
or maybe even creating new ones. They're so ambitious, in fact, that the
U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would have to rewrite
regulations. DirecTV's application filed with the FCC does not only include
the deployment of six more satellites in addition to the three DBS birds
currently in use but also the utilisation of new frequency bands. 
The Hughes subsidiary DirecTV wants to use frequencies in the range of 24
GHz for uplinking the signal and 17 GHz for the downlink. Two satellites
each will be placed at 96.5 deg. and 105.5 deg. West respectively while two
may join the DBS satellites at 110 deg. West. Those positions may seem a
bit odd, but actually DirecTV has proposed a 4.5-degree spacing for the
24/17-GHz satellites in order to avoid interference. 
This has probably not so much to do with the frequencies used-it rather
indicates that very small antennas with a consequently large beamwidth
(acceptance angle) are expected to be used for reception. Apart from this
educated guess, no further details were available yet.

And once again, there is an unprecedented rejoicing all across China as
FENGYUNG 2, the recently launched meteroroogicla... meteororoligiy...
weather satellite that is now positioned at 105 deg. East has taken a cloud
picture. What's even more, the picture was received by the Beijing
Meterorolical... Meteorological (oops!) Satellite Ground station. The
clouds were clearly visible, noted Xinhua, adding that "the successful
processing of the picture proved that the multi-channel scanning radiator,
and instruction and data receiving station of FENGYUN 2 were operating
normally." FENGYUN 2 can deliver a cloud picture every 30 minutes, allowing
it to monitor weather changes as they occur. Well, who needs a satellite to
monitor weather changes as they occur? Just go outside. Should you get wet,
there's a good chance that there's some precipaitioan... precipataion...


According to the Hungarian daily "Nepszava," the two nation-wide
terrestrial TV licenses will next Tuesday be officially granted to MTM-SBS
and CME, while the application of CLT/Ufa's Magyar RTL will be dismissed.
The licenses were auctioned off, but the bidders had to comply with some
basic conditions. Hungarian companies had to be involved with at least 26
percent, and no shareholder was allowed to control more than 49.9 percent.
20 percent of the broadcasting time will have to be reserved for public
programming; and besides, the amount of commercial advertising is strictly
limited. MTM-SBS is majority owned by Scandinavian Broadcasting System,
which despite its fake name is a British company. (I think ;-)


Dutch public broadcaster NOS and secretary Nuis (Media) have agreed on
digital broadcasts of Nederland 1, 2 and 3. The broadcasts will start on
July 1, 1997. Also Radio 1, 2, 3FM, 4 and 5 will be broadcast digitally.
The broadcasts of the channels will be in the package of MultiChoice/Canal+
Copyright protected programmes can only be received with the 'free'
MultiChoice smartcard. It is only available to Dutch citizens. For a
follow-up version of Zomer TV, there are negotiations underway between NOS
and Wereldomroep. If the plans of a follow-up to Zomer TV (Beste van
Nederland, BVN-TV) should fail, there will be negotiations about a
programme where Wereldomroep would get at a fixed timeslot on Nederland 1,
2 or 3 via satellite.
(David de Jong, DutchMedia; look for it at http://www.sat-net.com/)

It is the umpteenth time that the end of the German decoder wars is
declared. I've heard all this before, but nevertheless: the two major
players of German commercial TV, CLT/Ufa (Bertelsmann) and Kirch group,
have over the weekend agreed on a common decoder standard for digital TV.
The main points of the agreement that is still subject to regulatory
* Bertelsmann and Kirch will run the pay-TV channel premiere as a 50/50
venture, which means that France's Canal+ has to sell its 37.5 percent
stake. Bertelsmann currently holds 37.5 percent, Kirch 25 percent. 
premiere, with 1.5 million subscribers to its analogue pay-TV service, is
widely regarded as the key to introducing digital pay-TV to a wider
audience in Germany and Austria-something that Leo Kirch has not achieved
with his destitute digital bouquet DF1 that so far attracted no more that
40,000 subscribers instead of the 200,000 expected just a year ago when the
service was launched.
Last January, Canal+ officials were quoted as saying they would keep their
stake of 37.5 percent in premiere for the time being. They now have
reportedly agreed to sell.
* premiere will abandon the 'Mediabox' decoders that are currently in use
for its (more or less experimental) digital service and use Kirch's d-box
instead. The 'Mediabox' was jointly developed with Canal+ but never sold,
just leased to premiere subscribers. (Pretty clever, huh?) 
The French, formerly allied with Kirch's main opponent Bertelsmann, had
over the past few months established closer ties with Kirch after
Bertelsmann's Ufa unit had merged with Canal+' Luxembourg-based rival CLT.
This even led to the rather odd announcement of mTh, a French-American
company that re-sells Canal+ programming abroad, to use Kirch's digital
platform DF1 for its planned German service instead of the decoder promoted
by Canal+, mTh's backers. 
* Even though both digital services, DF1 and premiere, will use the same
technical platform, there will be no merger. Both have agreed, however, to
grant the yet-to-be-fully-privatised telecommunications giant Deutsche
Telekom the right to use the same platform for their huge cable network (17
million subscribers.) Negotiations about cable distribution are still
underway, however.
* Kirch group will supply premiere with high-class programming. Over the
past few months, Kirch has clinched long-term output deals with almost all
major Hollywood studios, estimated at several billions of dollars, as well
as securing almost world-wide broadcast rights for the World Football
[soccer] Championships 2002 and 2006.
That's one of Kirch's problems, though. Even then, observers were wondering
where the money would finally come from. A report in the latest edition of
the German 'manager magazin' claims the DF1 failure has brought Kirch to
the verge of a "financial disaster." 
A Kirch spokesman reportedly did not deny the enormous loss that is caused
by DF1 but pointed out that Kirch's assets, primarily in broadcasting
rights, were worth more than DM5 billion (US$2.9 billion) and would by far
outweigh the group's liabilities that according to 'manager magazine' have
reached DM3 billion (US$1.7 billion.) Other reports earlier suggested, too,
that Kirch was at least having difficulties in raising funding for his
wide-ranging activities.
* "Peace, joy, digital egg cake." German is a strange language, isn't it?

Not exactly news, just rumours that nevertheless were placed in the public
by God-knows-whom: WorldSpace, the Washington-based company that not only
plans to launch three digital radio satellites but has been frequently
mentioned in Sat-ND, is still trying to find some customers for the
broadcasting services it hopes to offer. As Pathfinder
(http://www.pathfinder.com/) recently reported, WorldSpace was now
negotiating with Bloomberg and CNN Radio news. The company also hopes to
strike deals with the BBC and Voice of America. 
But now for the "We live to learn" section. Just as I used to, Pathfinder
claimed that the expected retail price of US$150 to 200 "may not be cheap
enough for their intended owners [in less developed countries.] Until mass
production brings the price down, richer consumers are likely to be the
Maybe not. I don't have to explain any member of an affluent society what a
status symbol is. Your neighbour has just bought a new luxury car or a
wide-screen TV set, and though you can't really afford it, you just have to
buy a bigger one in order to make his face turn green with envy. Right?
According to a recent report on Radio Netherland's "Media Network,"
short-wave receivers such as Grundig's "Satellit," which are much more
expensive than the proposed WorldSpace digital radio set, are by no means
uncommon in Africa, one of the target areas of WorldSpace. Observers expect
that, regardless of statistical figures such as an average monthly income
that definitely won't buy a WorldSpace receiver, a retail price of about
US$150 is more or less okay. (Jürgen Bartels contributed to this report.
Thank you very much!)

There are lots of free-to-air commercial channels in Germany. As different
as they are, most of them have one thing in common: they lose money. There
are two exceptions from this rule; RTL Television, the overall market
leader, and Pro Sieben, which despite reaching less than 10 percent of the
audience share became profitable quite a while ago. Their success is based
upon movie-oriented programming that is mainly supplied by Kirch Group.
Media mogul Leo Kirch does not officially own the channel; instead, his son
Thomas does (60 percent) in conjunction with the retailing group Rewe (40
percent.) Pro Sieben also operates a sister channel by the name of Kabel 1,
which despite the name is also available on satellite.
The Kirch connection, however, has in the past raised the concern of
regulating bodies as any involvement of Leo Kirch would have been illegal
under former concentration rules. There was an easy way out: Pro Sieben
decided to go public. 
I'll spare you the details of this IPO as they have changed from month to
month. In the end, Pro Sieben will by July 7 issue up to 17.5 million
nonvoting shares with a nominal value of DM5 each. Buyers will have to
invest DM66 to 72 (US$42) per share. The IPO is expected to generate up to
DM1.26 billion (US$740 million) that almost exclusively will make their way
to Thomas Kirch who is expected to cash in up to DM1 billion (while keeping
full control of the company.)
Pretty clever, too.

FEEDBACK: Sat-ND, 20.6.97

I suspected that the sketch 'Dinner for one' by the British comedian
Freddie Frinton, which has become a cult in Germany and Sweden, was
completely unknown in the UK. Richard Lambley told me that "Astonishing as
it may seem, this is quite so. As far as I know, the programme has never
been shown in Britain. We were alerted to it only by a somewhat bemused
account in The Times on December 31. The various friends who have seen our
tape have all fallen about laughing :-)"
[They would have stopped laughing after having been forced to watch this
every new year's eve for the past forty years, I guess. I'm not that old,
but I think that's how long this thing has been around on German TV.]

by Dr Sarmaz

British Sky Broadcasting plans to pull out of BDB, a consortium that is
forming a terrestrial digital television service, said today's Financial
Times. According to the paper, BSkyB has been forced to make the move by
the Independent Television Commission, which is concerned that BSkyB's
participation will mean it will dominate both satellite and terrestrial
digital broadcasting. 
Meanwhile, BSkyB shares continued plummeting today on the London stock
exchange. So far, 1.7 billion (US$2.8 billion) have been wiped out
following recent events such as the announced departure of BSkyB head Sam
Chisholm, the problems with the terrestrial digital TV license, and some
more negative press reports over the weekend. 
The BSkyB share, which fell to 483p in the afternoon trade, is
optimistically seen at 450p in the near future-other analysts think that
350p is a more likely value. The all-time high of the BSkyB share was
recorded on February 14 when it reached 669p.

In last Friday's Sat-ND, there was a note about an Australian pay-TV deal.
There was nothing wrong with it except that it was really badly written, so
I doubt anybody was able to figure out what all that "rationalisation"
stuff was about. What has really happened is this: Foxtel, the News
Corp./Telstra joint venture, said it will buy half of Publishing and
Broadcasting's (PBL) interest in Australis Media. PBL currently has an
interest of about 11 percent in Australis and will retain half of that
stake following the completion of the deal. The other half is being divided
evenly between the two Foxtel partners, News Corp. and Telstra. While News
Corp belongs to the media empire of ex-Australian Rupert Murdoch, PBL is
owned by (the family of) his local rival Kerry Packer. Telstra is a
state-owned telecommunications company. Is this just the prelude of a
merger of Australia's two largest media groups, or at least their pay-TV
interests? Local papers reported that this is still unclear. Interestingly,
though, Mr Murdoch and Mr Packer seem to have concluded a peace treaty
concerning their two rivalling Australian rugby leagues as well. The
fundamental interconnectedness of all things applies even to Australian
pay-TV, and this is where things get a bit complicated. Not only have there
been some ties between Australis and Foxtel before: Foxtel has to pay
Australis A$4.5 billion over 25 years for some Hollywood programming
rights. On the other hand, and to make thing generally confusing, Packer's
PBL owns 5 percent of the third Australian pay-TV venture, Optus Vision,
and has options to raise the stake even further. Both also have programming
content links. Their "Rationalisation" efforts were stopped earlier this
month when the Supreme Court ruled that Optus could not share satellite
capacity with Australis. Both Foxtel and Optus are said to be in search of
satellite capacity as cable distribution seems to be insufficient to allow
a viable pay-TV business. Both reportedly will deliver an ultimatum to
Australis Media to merge or face the possibility of a financial crisis
before the end of the year.

Copyright (c) 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights
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