The race to bring direct-to-home (DTH) satellite TV into Latin America heated up July 10, when Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. announced a strategic partnership with Brazil’s media powerhouse Globo to develop pan-regional pay TV.

Initial details were scarce, but Globo’s deputy director Roberto Irineu Marinho told Brazilian newspapers July 12 that his company would invest $250 million over the next three years. Marinho did not mention News Corp.’s financial commitment.

The move is the latest salvo by the Oz-born media mogul, who already controls satcasters in Europe and Asia, to become the preeminent player in the global satellite business. It also will lift the regional profile of Globo, whose presence outside Brazil is small.

Slated to launch in early 1996, the as-yet unnamed service will go head-to-head with Hughes Communications’ DirecTv Latin America, a 144-channel DTH service skedded for early next year.

It’s unclear whether the News Corp.-Globo alliance also will compete against another DTH project, that of PanAmSat and Mexico’s Televisa, or whether the duo will soon partner with that project.

Murdoch has hinted for several months his wish to “repeat the BSkyB experience” in Latin America, referring to his successful British-based satellite service. Like the U.K., Latin America has low cable penetration, only 8 million of its 77 million homes subscribing to some form of non-pirated pay TV.

Globo already runs Latin America’s largest DTH operation – a domestic service with 85,000 subscribers – and has the further advantage of a home market with huge potential. Only 2% of Brazilian homes subscribe to multichannel TV.

Privately held by the Marinho family, Globo made an estimated $1.5 billion to $2 billion last year, thanks to its dominant Rede Globo TV network and substantial pay TV, radio and print media holdings.

Alberto Pecegueiro, CEO of Globo’s pay TV programming arm Globosat, told Variety that the accord does not preclude further partnerships.

“It’s an initial agreement. We’re still talking to Televisa and other possible partners,” said Pecegueiro. He added that a second partnership would probably be announced within two months.

A Fox-Globo joint venture with Televisa and PanAmSat would present a formidable competitor to Hughes, which already has three Latino equity partners. PanAmSat plans to launch a pan-South American satellite late this year, and another in late 1996, to provide up to 120 channels for each of three Latino regions.

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