News bytes

By | October 24, 2001 | Feature

  • NTL’s $1 billion (E1.12 billion) sale of their satellite uplink and transmission towers business has reportedly interested BBC Technology. It seems the BBC would step in with a pre-agreed bid for the satellite uplinking division after the whole business has been transferred to its new owners, with the current front-runners appearing to be either Telediffusion de France (TDF, part of France Telecom) or the German-based investment bankers WestLB. Although other bidders including Spectrasite, Lattice, American Tower and Crown Castle have all reportedly dropped out of what is now a two-horse race, one report also lists the venture capital fund Apax Partners as an interested party.

  • TiVo has signed a seven-year licensing agreement giving Sony access to TiVo PVR technology. Analysts generally see the deal, which is expected to bring an additional $10- 15 million (E11.2 – 16.8 million) over the next 12 months as part of an upfront service fee, as a good step for the PVR company. According to Weisel Partners analyst Gordon Hodge, “it is very positive for TiVo and legitimises the TiVo brand and technology. Worldwide deployment of the TiVo service through a partner like Sony could be a catalyst for mass adoption, which could greatly change the financial characteristics of the company”. Sony says it intends incorporating the TiVo in various consumer electronic products.

  • The Federal German anti media concentration commission (KEK) has given the go-ahead to the planned German-Turkish pay-TV channel Euro 1. According to the Potsdam-based regulatory body, the service will broadcast in digital to satellite homes and concentrate on such sports as ice hockey and football. With the KEK’s approval, the local media authority in Bremen can now issue a broadcast licence for Euro 1, which is jointly owned by Guner and Ismail Demir and should make its debut early next year.

  • Telecom Italia’s business unit Telespazio has inaugurated its new Atlantic Digital platform on Telstar 12 (15 degrees West). Besides offering both Italian and foreign operators the possibility of transmitting radio and television channels in Europe and North America, the platform will also provide other multimedia services including WebTV multicasting and news and stock market information via the Internet. Significantly, Telespazio has also leased transponder capacity on the recently launched Atlantic Bird 2 for its new platform. In a related development, Telespazio has signed an agreement with Equart for the development of services via satellite aimed mainly at corporate customers, public entities and professional. Thanks to the Q-EDIT content management system and Telespazio’s Evolve-e platform, the two companies will promote WebTV via satellite as a medium which brings together television an the Internet.

  • Atlantic Bird-2 (AB-2) went into full service on October 18 at 8 degrees West, having been launched from Kourou on September 25. Atlantic Bird-1 (AB-1) is meanwhile slated for launch in Q1/2002 and will be located at 12.5 degrees West. Eutelsat’s CEO Giuliano Berretta said that with the launch of AB-2 the satellie company now has “the youngest operational fleet in the world”. Launch clients for AB-2 include the DTH broadband service Aramiska.

  • Carlton Communications has announced that it will close its failing Food Network at the end of the year. The move, which follows an admission that plummeting advertising revenues have made the venture a financial black hole, comes only two months after Carlton dissolved its Taste Network with the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s. Carlton Food Network, in common with many specialist niche channels, has according to the ITV company’s director of business development Matthew Kearney experienced weaker than expected advertising and e-commerce revenues. Its losses in the first half of 2001 amounted to GBP5 million (E8 million).

  • The Polish satellite-delivered channel RTL7 may close early next year. According to local press reports, the service, which is owned by the RTL Group, has seen its audience share slump to 2.2 per cent (September 2001) and is losing out in the chase for ad revenue to such commercial rivals as Polsat-backed TV4. RTL7 was launched in late 1996 by CLT-Ufa and has always struggled to make an impression in one of Central and Eastern Europe’s most competitive marketplaces. Poland’s Radio and TV Council (KRRiT) is meanwhile preparing more changes to the broadcast law.

  • The UK digital terrestrial service ITV Digital is expected to announce that it has secured 60,000 new customers in the last quarter, taking its subscriber base to some 1.2 million. The company added Discovery Channel to its line-up on October 17.

  • The Italian Internet via satellite provider Netsystem has already signed up 30,000 subscribers and hopes to secure a further 20,000 by the end of the year. Speaking at a press conference during which he presented the company’s industrial plan, Netsystem’s president and CEO Arturo Artom also revealed that an IPO is being planned for the second semester of 2002. Artom presented Netsystem’s new free ADSL service, which permits high-speed Internet navigation by using a satellite modem installed in a PC and linked to a satellite dish. Although the service – which reaches speeds of up to 300Kbps – has no activation costs, users have to pay for the telephone connection. Netsystem’s shareholders currently include Arturo Artom (37.2 per cent), Improved Technology (35.7 per cent), SES Astra (5 per cent), Fineco Investimenti (4.7 per cent), Paulo Ottani (1 per cent) and the management (16.4 per cent).

  • The Italian content delivery network Netdish has signed important agreements with DADA (an Italian ISP) and The Fantastic Corporation (a Swiss-based company which develops software solutions for broadband transmissions) that will further expand its offer of media rich content distribution and data broadcasting. Netdish estimates its revenues for 2001 will reach E2-3 million, with breakeven forecast for the end of 2002. Its principal shareholders include HpD (the owners of Italy’s leading editorial group RCS), Fracarro Radioindustrie and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young.
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