TS News - SABC Signals For Satellite Partners

TELE-satellit News, 11 July 1995

South African Broadcasting Corporation Signals For Satellite Partners
  GILLITTS, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, 96/07/10 (TS) -- The SA
Broadcasting Corporation has approached MultiChoice Africa, M-Net's sister
company, to provide technical services for its new pay-TV satellite venture.

  On July 5, the public broadcaster announced five free-to-air satellite
channels to be rolled out from July 15. Details of its six pay-TV channels,
originally scheduled for later this year, await the establishment of the
SABC's satellite TV consortium.

  MultiChoice chief executive Hans Hawinkels confirms the discussions with
the SABC about potential technical synergies, but says agreement "is a long
way off". He emphasises that Nethold/MultiChoice are not going to be part of
the SABC'S satellite consortium.

  "We have our own successful satellite television operation. It makes no
sense to be the SABC'S financial partner when we are competing fiercely for
viewership," Mr Hawinkels says.

  The SABC has indicated it will settle for a 40% stake. Local and foreign
investors - most likely a media giant such as Britain's BskyB - will make up
the remaining 60% Domestic partners will probably be limited to financial
institutions who can provide funds for future expansion.

  The SABC itself simply has no funds to commit to the consortium but
justifies its 40% stake by putting in its satellite licence, a number of
transponders on the PanAmSat 4 satellite and some programming.

  Sources in the retail industry say the SABC is looking for finances,
technical know-how and programming from its venture partners.

  A technical agreement with MultiChoice will save the SABC hundreds of
millions of rands in establishing a greenflelds satellite operation. The
SABC has put much effort into the satellite operation in the hope that
earnings will subsidise unprofitable public broadcasting obligations.

  The SABC will rely heavily on price to compete with MultiChoice's digital
satellite TV package, launched late last year with over 25 channels. At
about R 5000.00, a digital satellite TV package costs more than double the
analogue equivalent.

  MultiChoice's satellite venture has also had its teething problems. "But
those have been resolved and to date about 38000 digital systems have been
installed," says Mr Hawinkels.

  He says the group will launch a renewed marketing campaign in mid-July to
emphasise its programming content. Coincidentally, or not, the campaign is
timed to rival the SABC's entry into satellite TV.

  The July 15 free-to-air satellite TV launch will rely heavily on coverage
of the Atlanta Olympics. Apart from the existing three SABC stations the
satellite package will include two new channels - entertainment-oriented
Astra Plus and Astra Sport, which will
almost exclusively provide Olympic coverage for the first few weeks of its

  The SABC is still finalising the programming for its pay-TV operations,
scheduled for airing later this year or early next year. The Independent
Broadcasting Authority is developing a licensing policy for satellite TV but
is believed to have given the SABC's
free-to-air package an interim nod.

  Sources indicate that the public broadcaster might be forced to raise its
stake in the satellite consortium to over 50% to oblige with IBA licensing

  The SABC has indicated it will eventually move to digital decoders when
the equipment becomes more affordable. Earlier efforts by M-Net and the SABC
to agree on Joint technology failed when the SABC opted  for the cheaper
analogue system.

  More details of the two new channels can be obtained from,

  By: Michael Cookson, TELE-satellit editor (South Africa)

(c)TELE-satellit 1996. All rights reserved.

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