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Paybox boom buoys Sogecable

MADRID — One of Spain’s most solvent film and TV companies, Sogecable, has announced post-tax profits for 1996 of $40.8 million.

One cash cow for Sogecable, its terrestrial paybox channel Canal Plus Spain, saw its subscribers rise to 1,417,00 by the end of May, the fourth highest for any paybox channel in Europe.

Sogecable’s profits would have been much higher but for the cost of satellite TV expansion. More than $42 million was set aside in 1996 to cover the development costs of CanalSat, Sogecable’s direct-to-home analog satellite bouquet, a press statement said.

Owned 25% by French paybox giant Canal Plus France and 25% by Spanish media empire Prisa, Sogecable is now preparing for further digital TV investment that should amplify its capital base within a month to $205.6 million. Subscribers for Spain’s first digital TV platform, CanalSat Digital (CSD), owned by Sogecable (85%) and free-to-air broadcaster Antena 3 TV (15%), now stand at 81,400 — a fast take-up for Europe, given Spain’s size, to that of market leader, France’s CanalSat, owned by Canal Plus.

CSD now faces two crucial legislative decisions. On June 26, Spain’s parliament is skedded to give its definitive vote on a Sports TV Transmissions bill which, if passed, could end Sogecable’s exclusive pay TV rights to all valuable Spanish soccer games.

Before July 7, CSD’s rival platform, the government-supported Via Digital, must greenlight CSD’s use of proprietary-standard simulcrypt decoders as used by Canal Plus in France. Despite European Union commissioner Martin Bangemann’s support of the simulcrypt decoders, Via Digital is currently opposed to their use by CSD in Spain.

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