Sogecable forges ahead

MADRID — Amid high drama, Spanish conglom Sogecable launched its 25-channel CanalSatelite Digital (CSD) Thursday — despite desperate attempts by the Spanish government to block the bow. Sogecable is a joint venture of Canal Plus in France and Spanish film and TV giant Prisa.

The Spanish government sparked political bedlam Jan. 24 by ruling that CSD had to use totally open-access decoders and would need a license to launch, which could push back its digital bow to June.

These rulings could have hit Spanish statute books by this weekend. But Sogecable has already left the gates and is already driving an impressive takeup. At $46, CSD costs no more than a combined subscription to Sogecable’s Canal Plus terrestrial paybox and its 5-channel analog satellite bouquet, CanalSatelite. Sogecable will also give digital decoders to CanalSatelite’s 100,000 subscribers free of additional charges. Given this, it’s hardly surprising that CSD’s customer services received 3,000 subscription requests in their first four days of operation last week.

Much of Spain’s digital furor turned on the government’s reported intention to oblige any digital decoder in Spain to be open to access by rival operators without any prior commercial agreement.

CSD’s SECA decoders have simulcrypt compatibility But Sogecable president Jesus de Polanco declared Thursday that opening them up to rivals had to be the fruit of “a commercial agreement, not a legal but never legitimate” mandate.

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