Rupert Murdoch’s satcaster, Star TV, is honing plans to launch at least 30 channels next summer when it switches to the new digital bird, AsiaSat 2.
“That number will grow; we’re not sure yet by how much,” said Star CEO Gary Davey in a recent interview.
The new channels will enable Star to further customize its services for specific regions and cultures. The Star network claims to reach more than 220 million people in 53 countries across Asia, India and the Middle East, and Davey insisted Star is on track to reach break-even at the operating level sometime next year, after losing about $20 million in the 1993-94 fiscal year.
Among the new services being readied:
Three movie channels respectively showing Western, Cantonese and Filipino product. The Hong Kong government has said it will soon give Star the go-ahead to broadcast in Cantonese in southern China, including the colony, ending a three-year ban.
* The Filipino channel, Viva Cinema, is a coventure with the Manila-based Viva Group; the partners intend to undertake a number of co-productions.
* A Hindi movie channel, which will launch next year before AsiaSat 2 becomes operational in July.
* A third, primarily English-language music service to complement the existing two stations (respectively Hindi and Chinese).
Davey said he’s “very confident” that lengthy negotiations to bring aboard as equity and licensing partners a number of major diskeries including BMG, Thorn EMI and Polygram, will pay off.
* The splitting of the Prime Sports signal, which will enable Star to simultaneously air several events, including test match cricket in India, a Chinese National Football League game from Beijing, and the international badminton grandprix from Jakarta.
In response to HBO Asia’s recent announcement that Sony Pictures Entertainment and MCA Universal are investing in its pan-Asian movie channel, Davey said he believes Star’s Western movie channel will be sufficiently fed by 20th Century Fox and deals with more than 20 indies.
The Western movie channel will be marketed alongside a Mandarin film service in mainland China, where Star is already available in an estimated 30 million cabled households.