JSkyB, PerfecTV in pact

TOKYO — JSkyB and PerfecTV are planning to use a common set of antennas and receivers beginning next spring in a move that heats up competition for viewers in Japan’s direct digital satellite broadcasting market.

Under the planned agreement between Japan’s only up-and-running satellite broadcaster, PerfecTV, and the JSkyB consortium that includes Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., Japanese consumers would be able to use the same equipment to receive about 200 channels from the two platforms when JSkyB begins service in April.

DirecTV Japan, the Japanese affiliate of the satellite platform owned by Hughes Electronics Corp., plans to begin operating a 100-channel service around the beginning of December. Its antennas and receivers would fall outside the joint system proposed by the other two satellite platforms.

JSkyB and PerfecTV have reached other business agreements, mostly for programming, prior to the antenna-box system plan.

The three platforms are competing for subscribers among Japan’s 43 million households.

PerfecTV began service last fall and is moving to become a 100-channel platform. It currently has about 350,000 subscribers. Its primary owners are the trading houses Itochu Corp., Nissho Iwai Corp., Mitsui & Co. and Sumitomo Corp. Each has a 13.85% stake in the venture while Sony Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. also hold 5% stakes.

Sony Corp. is also one of the partners in the JSkyB venture. It holds an equal stake with News Corp., Fuji Television Network Inc. and Japanese software company Softbank.

JSkyB is slated to be a 150-channel service. DirecTV Japan is owned by a partnership of U.S. and Japanese firms that includes Hughes and the video rental chain Culture Convenience Club Co. Ltd.

Other investors include Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Tokuma Shoten Publishing Co. and Mitsubishi Corp.

The analog satellite broadcasting service from pubcaster NHK has about 10 million subscribers.

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