Australia TV Intl. (ATVI), Australia’s first international satellite-delivered programming service, officially began beaming to 15 Asian countries Wednesday.

A division of pubcaster the Australian Broadcasting Corp., ATVI utilizes Indonesia’s Palapa satellite, giving initial access to an audience of 1 million, said project director Bruce Donald.

Service will also be aiming to feed into regional pay and cable operations, particularly in countries that don’t have “open sky”– where there are no restrictions on satellite transmitted programming — such as Singapore and Malaysia, and countries such as Hong Kong, where free satellite services (such as Star TV) already have a strong foothold.

In Hong Kong, ATVI is talking to Wharf Cable, which is launching the market’s first cable service.

As an unencrypted, free service and with startup costs exceeding $ A11 million ($ 7.5 million), venture is looking for corporate sponsorship to help it break even within three to five years.

First stage of sponsorship is targeting Australian companies with Asian interests, then Asian groups. Although not willing to go into specifics, Donald says this is proceeding at an “expected pace,” in line with ATVI’s business plan.

ATVI begins with an eight-hour sked that draws on the ABC’s vast catalog of children’s fare, drama, docus, sport, language education and light entertainment , subsidized by a specially produced regional news bulletin.

Downtime on the satellite’s transponder and supply of programming to pay services will also be revenue earners in the long term, Donald says.

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