Satellite news 25.10.04



Channel 4 is favourite to retain the broadcast rights
to England's home international cricket Test matches
following the personal intervention of new chief
executive Andy Duncan and the effective withdrawal of
the BBC from the race. The broadcaster has bid an
estimated 45 million for the three-year contract,
although that figure is poised to rise with the
England Cricket Board hoping to drive up the price
following a successful summer for the Test side.
Initial bids for the contract were due in last week
and sources close to the talks believe Channel 4 and
BS*yB are favourites to renew their shared deal, which
ends next year. Under the present contract Channel 4
shows the majority of Test matches, while the pay-TV
service shows home one-day internationals, with
highlights on the terrestrial channel. Channel 4
currently pays the ECB 19 million a year, with S*y
contributing about 21 million. In all, the ECB makes
about 50 million a year from TV rights and hopes to
raise that to 60 million for the next contract, which
runs from 2006 to 2008.

Northern & Shell owner Richard Desmond is calling his
new TV venture the Express Shopping Channel, hoping
readers of the newspaper will be tempted to buy
clothes, home ware and DIY goods. The Express
proprietor launches his first foray into the
competitive world of home shopping on October 20 as a
joint venture between Northern & Shell and mail order
shopping business the N Brown Group. Desmond's empire
also includes OK!, New and Star magazines as well as
adult channels including the Fantasy Channel. The
explosion in multichannel television has led to a rash
of shopping channels, but QVC remains the most
profitable by far. Desmond said he had invested "a
couple of million" in the joint venture, which is
expected to break even within two years. Northern &
Shell will provide all the studio space and
transmission for the channel, which will include six
hours of live broadcasting a day, producing it from
newly refurbished studios at the company's
headquarters in London's Docklands.

ITV News Channel has been pulled off Freeview outside
London for essential engineering work, loosing an
estimated 4 million TV homes. Viewers with Freeview
will get the ITV News Channel back in some regions
next month, but the network will not be available
nationally via digital terrestrial TV again until the
beginning of next year, when the engineering work is
completed. ITV News Channel is still available to
around 10 million digital satellite and cable
subscribers, but Freeview box owners outside London
switching to channel 41, where the ITV news service is
normally located, will find only an onscreen message
saying that the network is temporarily unavailable.
The engineering work that has taken ITV News Channel
off air is linked to a reorganisation of the
broadcaster's capacity on Freeview to make room for
the launch of ITV3. ITV3 is due to launch on Freeview
channel 34 on November 1 and promos for the digital
channel are due to begin running October 25.

According to the Guardian, Rupert Gavin, the former
chief executive of BBC Worldwide, has set up a company
to bid for any of the BBC's commercial assets that may
be put up for sale. The venture, Kingdom Media, will
reportedly look towards a wholesale acquisition of any
of the BBC's commercial assets, or a joint venture
with the organization. There has been much speculation
about the future of BBC Worldwide since
director-general Mark Thompson announced a wide-scale
review earlier this year.

Racing UK has announced it has reached halfway in its
attempts to attract a target of 20,000 subscribers to
the new channel. The dedicated racing channel, owned
by 30 of Britain's courses, launched its subscription
service on October 1. It now reports the number of
subscribers to the channel has exceeded the 10,000
mark. Executive chairman Simon Bazalgette said: "This
is a remarkable figure to have attained within a week
of the launch and exceeds our expectations."We have
set ourselves a target of 20,000 subscribers within
the next 12 to 18 months, and to have reached the
halfway stage in week one is very encouraging.

ITV is set to roll out its interactive brand, ITVi, as
a 24/7 service this week. ITVi originally launched
interactive TV services on =ITV1 and ITV2 in May 2003.
This week will see the introduction of a range of 24/7
interactive initiatives. The content includes
co-branded Littlewoods Game On, ITVi's which has been
re-branded and re-launched to coincide with the launch
of ITVi 24/7and the Bringin' Home The Bacon campaign.
GTV, ITVi's games service developed in conjunction
with Playjam, will also gain more exposure.

BS*yB's low-key launch of digital satellite platform
Freesat took place on October 21, offering viewers 150
free-to-air digital television and radio channels for
a one-off cost of 150. Concerned that the free
service might cannibalize its pay TV offering, BS*yB
executives have kept relatively silent about the
Freesat launch. BS*yB has not announced what channels
will be offered on Freesat, but it will not feature
S*y's most popular brands, such as S*y One, Paramount
Comedy, E4, Gold or Living because the channels
operate on a subscription only basis. According to
trade sources, the new system will be launched using
refurbished S*y Digital boxes and modified smart cards
that will give viewers access to encrypted channels
for up to two years. BS*yB is hoping to subsequently
convert as many viewers as possible to pay-TV. The
move comes after the apparent breakdown of talks
between BS*yB and the BBC about collaborating on a
Freesat service.

The BBC has responded to criticism that it spends 85
million a year on acquired Hollywood movies at the
expense of domestic production, by considering the
launch of a new channel dedicated to UK films.
Director general Mark Thompson told an all-party media
select committee that the BBC could explore the option
with another broadcaster to determine whether there is
enough room for such a channel in the UK. At present,
the BBC spends 10 million on British film product.
Thompson said that he would review the 85 million
American budget but added that TV audiences may want
the same quality of films as those who went to the

The BBC said on October 20 that it has snatched
exclusive U.K. TV rights to U.S. comedies "Arrested
Development" and "Family Guy" from Twentieth Century
Fox Television Distribution. Seasons 1 and 2 of
"Family Guy" previously aired on Channel 4. The BBC
also has bought the exclusive rights to the upcoming
Fox comedy "American Dad."



RTL Televizija, RTL Group's TV channel in Croatia,
achieved the best audience results since it started
broadcasting at the end of April 2004 with a prime
time (19:00 - 23:00 hrs) market share of 49.2 per cent
and a total daytime market share of 39.5 per cent on
15 October 2004. Big Brother which is currently
broadcast on RTL Televizija was the most watched
programme on 15 October with an audience share of 56.4
per cent*. RTL Televizija, RTL Group's Croatian TV
channel based in Zagreb, started broadcasting on 30
April. It achieved the leading market position in its
first full month of operations. In June 2004, RTL
Group increased its shareholding in RTL Televizija to
58 %.


France's highest administrative appeal court ordered
on October 20 the cancellation of six digital
terrestrial television broadcasting licenses
controlled by French television group Canal Plus and
media group Lagardere. Analysts said the Conseil
d'Etat decision could further delay France's
long-awaited entry into the digital terrestrial TV
era, scheduled to begin in March with 15 free-access
channels and in September with pay-TV digital
broadcasting. The ruling follows a complaint by rival
commercial broadcaster TF1 that Canal Plus violated a
legal limit of five digital broadcasting licenses and
effectively held seven licenses because it jointly
owned the i-MCM and Canal J channels with the
Lagardere group. France's audiovisual watchdog, the
Conseil Superieur de l'Audiovisuel, said on October 21
that it will try to ensure the country launches its
digital terrestrial television broadcasting program in
March as scheduled. "We will do our best to maintain
the schedule we have announced, in the general
interest, and keeping in mind that France is two or
three years behind some of its European neighbors in
entering the digital terrestrial television era," CSA
head Dominique Baudis said at a news conference.

Satellite services company GlobeCast is set to
broadcast Pink TV in France via its satellite
television distribution platform on Hot Bird, in
partnership with leading French television bouquet
TPS. Pink TV, a gay-themed television channel, will
gain access to a potential audience of 1.3 million TPS
subscribers. GlobeCast - a subsidiary of France
Telecom - manages proprietary Direct-to-Home satellite
television platforms in Europe, America, Australia,
Africa and Asia. In addition to distributing numerous
channels for TPS in France, GlobeCast's DTH capacity
on Hot Bird brings over 100 channels to a potential 98
million cable and DTH satellite television homes in
Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. GlobeCast is
providing Pink TV with an end-to-end satellite
delivery solution, including fibre connectivity from
the channel's headquarters in Lorient, France, to the
GlobeCast/TPS platform multiplex south of Paris.
GlobeCast manages encryption, uplink and space
capacity for the platform on the Hot Bird satellite at
13E. Pink TV is included in the TPS (Electronic
Program Guide) EPG and is available through
subscription. Pink TV is a general programming channel
mainly targeted to the gay and lesbian community, as
well as to a wider audience. Pink TV's program grid
includes series, films, investigative reports, music
and personal ads.


Germany's new music TV monopoly, the twin Viacom
subsidiaries MTV Networks and VIVA, announced on
October 22 that the profiles of their channels will be
altered in 2005 to appeal to different segments of the
German audience. The new joint strategy aims to enable
the companies to complement each other instead of
competing for the same viewer. MTV will reduce the
amount of music it plays and will concentrate on more
show formats to appeal to a target audience of 16-25
year-old males. Meanwhile, VIVA will develop its own
productions and focus on both home-grown and
international acts to cover the female 10-29 year-old
audience. Meanwhile, MTV parent Viacom, which in
summer initially acquired 76% in Viva from major
stakeholders, has been reported to now hold 95% in the
music web group. Viacom is now testing a squeeze-out
for the remaining shares.

The History Channel will launch a 24-hour
German-language service on November 15 as part of a
new digital cable package on Kabel Deutschland. A
statement by A&E Television Networks added that the
company would sign a licensing agreement with public
broadcaster ZDF to acquire programming from ZDF's huge
library to broadcast on the new channel. The two
companies have worked together since 1995, producing
"a number of acclaimed contemporary history
documentaries and mini-series," said the AETN

Leading free-to-air broadcaster ProSiebenSAT1 has
scaled back its expectations for growth of the TV
advertising market this year, its chairman Guillaume
de Posch said in a newspaper interview on October 18.
ProSiebenSAT1 was currently planning growth for the TV
advertising market this year of zero to two per cent,
de Posch told the Financial Times Deutschland.
Previously, the broadcaster had been counting on
growth of about two per cent in 2004.

A storm was brewing on October 18 in Germany over the
latest TV license-fee increase, which for the first
time ever is likely to come out lower than recommended
by an independent commission. In January, the
commission recommended a raise of ?1.09 per month to
?17.24 per month per household for the next four
years. But last week it was the politicians' turn, and
the state premiers proposed only an ?0.88 raise. The
fee, which makes up the lion's share of budgets for
pubcasters ARD, ZDF and regional public channels, must
now be ratified by the state parliaments, generally a
formality. ARD and ZDF receive a combined $8 billion
from license fees, with ARD and its 17 affiliates
getting the lion's share. They also take in an
additional $350 million a year in advertising.

Eutelsat's German programming distribution arm
visAvision has agreed a strategic co-operation for the
distribution of German pay-per-view content for cable
networks. Under the terms of the deal, visAvision will
market the German Kabelvision services of cable
operator PrimaCom's Decimus subsidiary. In return,
PrimaCom will market visAvision's 22 foreign language
channels to its customers. Decimus will also install
and operate an uplink to Eutelsat's Telecom 2D
satellite in Leipzig. The deal marks a significant
advancement in visAvision's presence in German cable
markets. It is now able to market 12 German programmes
and pay-per-view services. As a result of the deal,
Decimus, a 100% subsidiary of PrimaCom has terminated
with immediate effect the Cooperation Agreement with
Spacecom., Ramat Gan, Israel concerning the use of the
Satellite Transmisison Capacities (Amos 1 and Amos 2)
by mutual consent.


Nagravision on October 19 announced a strategic
agreement with the Mediaset Group, Italy's most
important privately-owned communications and
broadcasting group. Under the terms of the agreement,
Nagravision, which is part of the Kudelski Group, will
secure pay-per-view (PPV) offerings over Mediaset's
digital terrestrial platform, the first commercial
digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) service in Italy
scheduled to launch in 2005. Nagravision's innovative
content security solution is based on smart cards
which can be recharged during a limited time period.
Italian customers will be able to buy them in stores
to watch the live broadcasting of football matches of
the Italian Premiere League. Mediaset has secured
digital terrestrial premium football TV rights for the
next three seasons from leading Serie A clubs Inter,
Juventus, Milan, Roma, Sampdoria, Atalanta, Livorno
and Messina. To offer Mediaset maximum commercial
flexibility, the smart cards provided by Nagravision
will be event-based and rechargeable. Nagravision will
download its conditional access technology on to the
DTT-enabled set-top boxes already deployed and work
with all digital set-top box manufacturers in the
Italian retail market to enable the timely launch of
this service.

At a press conference on October 20 to launch RAI's
new digital channel RAI Utile, the Italian
communications minister, Maurizio Gasparri, told
reporters that the government will go ahead with plans
to privatize the country's state broadcaster. The
Italian Treasury Department is ready to launch a
search for investment banks and advisors to oversee
privatization, explained Gasparri. He expects the
privatization process to start next March or April.


Melita Cable will be launching Malta's first digital
cable television early next year, according to
Chairman Joe Gasan. Among other features, the new
service will include more than 15 new channels and
improved sound and picture quality. Football fans will
have six live-feeds from the Italian Serie A and the
British Premier league for which, Gasan explained,
Melita Cable has contracted exclusive rights. Asked
about the price and the exact date when digital TV
will be launched, Gasan said that the company had
still not fixed the prices as it was waiting for the
results of a survey it was conducting among a sample
of Maltese families. Those currently subscribing to
the family pack will not see a drastic increase,
despite being offered extra 15 channels. Regarding the
official launch date, he said that given the
complexity of the project, both from a technical and
financial aspect, the company felt that it could not
set a fixed date as yet. He added, however, that it
will certainly be in the first quarter of 2005. Asked
by The Malta Independent whether the system will be
interactive - by which viewers can participate in
polls or interactive marketing schemes - Gasan said
that that this technology will not be introduced
straightaway but will be included at later date.


The Russian government is not planning to privatize
mass media companies of strategic importance,
including the All-Russian State Television and Radio
Company (VGTRK), the state-owned Russian Television
and Radio Broadcasting Network (RTRS) and the Mosfilm
studios, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov told a
government meeting on October 21. "We propose that a
number of mass media companies of strategic importance
should not be privatized, including VGTRK and RTRS, as
well as archives, libraries, museums, theatres and
philharmonics that are of federal importance," Zhukov
said. He also said that the government plans to keep
18 per cent of state companies currently operating in
the power, communications and industrial sectors as
federal property.


Proceeds from advertising at ?528 million in the first
nine months of the current year for a 26% growth rate
with respect to the same period last year. This is one
of the results realized by Publiespana, a Telecinco
concessionary, communicated by the Mediaset Group. The
growth in advertising proceeds in the 2004 Q3 was
equal to 30.5% with respect to the 2003 Q3. The
television network also obtained an audience share of
22.1% over the 24 hour period, more than its direct
competitors Antena (20.5%) and Tve-1 (21.8%).

The Government is considering opening up the
commercial TV market to two new entrants. The new TV
licences, with a nation wide coverage, are likely to
be awarded over the coming months. Spanish media group
Prisa, owner of pay-TV channel Canal Plus, is expected
to be one of the licensees, with Canal Plus set to
become a free-to-air channel. For the second licence,
there are several candidates: Media group Recoletos,
owner of financial newspaper Expansion; Unedisa, owner
of El Mundo; Vocento, shareholder in Tele 5; Group
Zeta or Godo. This licence might be awarded to one
single company or more likely to a consortium. The
Government is said to have plans to privatise the
second TVE channel La 2 to make this second new
station possible. The final decision is expected in
February next year, when a group of TV experts,
appointed by the Government, are due to release their
report about a new public TV model.

Regards Satdude.