- The chairmen of German public broadcaster ARD’s regional affiliates have given the green light to its participation in the global satellite-based German-language pay-TV channel planned in co-operation with fellow public broadcaster ZDF and Deutsche Welle, Germany’s state-funded international broadcaster. According to ARD, the channel – dubbed Deutscher Auslandskanal – will screen high-quality productions from ARD’s library and be officially launched early next year. Furthermore, it will aim for global and free-to-air distribution, other than in North America, where “special market conditions” could result in carriage on pay-TV platforms. Broadcasting three eight-hour programme blocks daily, the service will be initially financed by the German state but is gradually expected to reduce its dependence on public funding. Although the German government has still to approve state funding, Deutsche Welle has welcomed ARD’s approval of the plan.
- Nordic Satellite executive director Lennart Hallkvist has said that Sirius Satellite Systems’ digital TV uplink station is expected to be completed at the Latvian television complex in Riga this autumn. Costing around $2 million (E2.32 million), it will allow several Baltic and Russian television stations to transmit throughout the Baltic region. Under current arrangements, Sirius provides an uplink from its facilities in Stockholm. However, growing demand for satellite services had made an additional earth station necessary and Riga was chosen for its central geographic location and the company’s friendly relationship with Latvian television. It is hoped that DTH channel packages will be available in Latvia and Lithuania at the end of this summer.
- Italy’s Cecchi Gori Group (CGG) has been ousted as a partner in Telemontecarlo (TMC) after it failed to pay its portion of a cash infusion for the TV network that is being relaunched by Telecom Italia/Seat. Seat bought TMC from Cecchi Gori last August, paying L250 billion (E129 million) for a 25 per cent stake and an option to purchase the remaining 75 per cent by the end of 2001 in exchange for 1 per cent of Seat shares. The financial value of Seat shares has since greatly depreciated and Cecci Gori has been trying to renegotiate the deal or alternately have it invalidated. CGG has meanwhile countered Seat’s allegations that it has lost all ownership rights in the TV network, contending that its contract to sell TMC to Seat expired on January 31, 2001.
- Modern Times Group (MTG) says there is no prospect of any closer co-operation with Canal+ in Scandinavia, which, in the view of MTG CEO Hans-Holger Albrecht, is a large enough market for two players. Albrecht reported that MTG had now completed its analogue-to-digital swap-out in just eight months, saving E21.7 million, and that cost savings were already kicking in. Some 80 per cent of new digital sales were at Premium level, and at the end of Q1 this year the company had some 420,000 digital subscribers.
- June 30 will see the demise of another batch of analogue channels from Astra at 19 degrees East, with Sky News, Sky Moviemax, Sky Sports 1, Sky Sports 1, Sky Sports 3, Midnight Blue, QVC and Cartoon Network all switching to digital transmission at 28.2 degrees East. From the former Sky Multichannels package only Sky One, Sky Premier and Sky Sports 2 will remain. Channel 5 has told Interspace of its intention to see the station’s analogue contract through until the end of the year. CNBC and CNN, with their continental European audiences in mind, meanwhile both remain committed to analogue at 19 degrees East.
- Arianespace has been awarded three contracts to launch satellites for the US operator PanAmSat, with Galaxy 12, the first of the three, due to go into service at the end of 2002 using either an Ariane-4 or Ariane-5 rocket. The two other satellites (PAS Light 2 and PAS Light 3) will be launched aboard Ariane-5 rockets in 2003 and 2004 respectively. The birds will be built by US-based Orbital Sciences (ORBI) and once in orbit provide telecommunications services with a footprint spanning North America. Although the European firm declined to reveal the value of the deal, estimates put the order to be worth around $100 million.