NEWS BYTES

By | October 10, 2001 | Feature

  • More redundancies are taking place at CNBC Europe’s London headquarters, with some 10 staff believed to be immediately affected. The service has also suspended its hourly supply of Scandinavian business news inserted into the core CNBC-E feed, and according to a company spokesman appointed someone to source Nordic news “while they search for another partner” in the region. Although CNBC is understood to have conducted an internal review of the European operation with a view to trim costs and achieve operational efficiencies in what the spokesman admitted were “difficult times”, its other opt-out services with joint-venture partners in Italy and Turkey will continue. Moreover, it is said to be about to make “three significant senior appointments” in the next few weeks “to strengthen the team”.

  • Eutelsat’s AB-2, weighing some 3 tonnes at lift off, was successfully launched on an Ariane 4 rocket from Kourou on September 26. Based on an Alcatel SpaceBus 3000B2 platform and with 26 Ku-band transponders and a design life of 12 years, the craft – which was completed in 19 months – will be located at 8 degrees West.

  • The ambitious European joint venture Epsilon, which was created in 1999 by Mediaset and the German media giant Kirch to challenge the Hollywood majors, has folded. Although the decision was reached a year ago – when the two partners decided to abandon joint activities in the broadcasting and advertising sector in favour of production and distribution – it only became effective last month. Following the closure, Mediaset has obtained a 2.28 per cent stake in Kirch Media, which itself holds 1.3 per cent in the Italian broadcaster. Two Epsilon divisions (Evision and Emotion) still remain operational.

  • Orbital Sciences (OSC) say they have signed a contract with Japan’s Broadcasting Satellite Systems (BSat) for BSat 2C, a replacement for the BSat 2B lost in the Ariane 5 launch failure in July. BSat 2C will be the third geostationary satellite that OSC has built for BSat, with all three being based on its Star family of relatively lightweight craft. BSat 2A was successfully launched in March and is providing broadcast services throughout Japan, while other Star family satellites that OSC has under construction include N-Star and the ground system for NTT DoCoMo, the mobile communications arm of NTT, and the Galaxy 12 C-band satellite for PanAmSat. Financial details of the contract to build BSat 2C have not been disclosed.

  • The Internet provider Tiscali has launched a three-month trial for its planned high-speed two-way Internet via satellite service. Due to be made available throughout Europe, it will cost E65 a month upon payment of an E300 installation fee and E565 for hardware. More information about the service, which does not need a telephone-based return channel and is therefore particularly attractive to users in rural areas with limited technical infrastructure, is available on the Internet at satellite.tiscalinet.de.

  • BSkyB CEO Tony Ball received a reported E12.6 million in a combination of basic pay and performance-related bonus last year, the latter including 908,000 shares worth around E8.65 million in stock options. His remuneration consists of a base salary of GBP725,410, plus an annual cost of living provision and bonus based on performance criteria but to be no less than GBP500,000 annually. Sky’s executive directors participate in a ‘Long Term Incentive Plan’ bonus scheme, and the aggregate amount received by Tony Ball and finance director Martin Stewart amounted to GBP8,430,300. Ball’s total salary and pension package meanwhile came to GBP1.964 million and his current contract expires in June 2002.

  • The National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI) and Eutelsat are jointly working on the development of an advanced satellite network aimed at linking ANCI’s 21 branch offices throughout Italy. According to ANCI president Leonardo Domenici, it will provide telephony and data transmission services, as well as fast Internet and video conferencing. The results of recent IP broadband trials, which involved four ANCI offices and 200 Italian municipalities, were more than satisfactory.

  • Senior staff at the UK-based transmission and uplink business divisions of NTL are considering a management buyout, reportedly with the help the private investment group Hg Capital. Although this could see up to E1.92 billion flow into the cash-strapped cable company’s coffers, other bidders said to be interested in NTL Broadcast include the media investment house Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, bankers West LB and France Telecom, which already has a major stake in NTL. Crown Castle, however, has said in a statement that it is “not in talks to purchase NTL’s aerials and transmission business, nor does it plan to participate in bidding for NTL’s tower assets”.

  • Gottfried Zmeck, the German media entrepreneur who operates the pay-TV Schlager channel GoldStar TV and accompanying free-to-air radio station Radio GoldStar, is considering entering the Austrian television market. Speaking in the Vienna-based paper Die Presse, he confirmed that his plans are already “very concrete”, but declined to provide any further details. It is believed that one of the financial backers of the venture is Munich-based Kirch Group, where Zmeck previously worked as the managing director of Premiere World’s predecessor DF1. Austria recently decided to allow national commercial broadcasting, and the first licences are due to be issued early next year.

  • The Italian Serie A football clubs Inter, Milan and Juventus have re-negotiated the TV rights for their league games with Tele+ until 2005, but no financial results have been released. Contracts with Serie B teams Bari and Cagliari have also been concluded, while proposals will soon be presented to Como, Empoli and Messina. Interestingly, Tele+ has decided to move autonomously on the TV rights front despite the fact that the Communications Authority has yet to rule on the merger with Stream, which is still probably months away. Separately, the Italian thematic channel Salute Benessere Network, which has been on air for a year, faces serious financial problems (having, along with its web site, already lost around L15 billion – E7.74 million) and may soon shed 40 jobs. It seems the web site faces closure, while the channel, which is available FTA via satellite, will remain on air since the subjects it covers (health and fitness) are potentially very profitable.
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