B'casters running at loss, commission report sez

SANTIAGO — Chile’s biggest cable operators are showing a profit for the first time, but broadcasters are running at a loss, according to a government monitor.

During the first nine months of 1998, VTR-Cablexpress showed a net profit of $7 million and Metropolis/Intercom was in the black by $5 million.

This is the first year the local MSOs have not lost money, but net profits are expected to decrease during the 4th quarter due to investments made by both in decoder boxes for premium channels.

All TV and pay-TV companies here are legally obliged to report earnings to SEC-equivalent the Superintendencia de Valores.

Other reports to the Superintendencia show ad-supported pubcaster TVN had an operational loss of $5.86 million during the first three quarters, while Megavision bled $5.15 million and the Cisneros Group’s ChileVision operated at $3.58 million in the red.

The government is legally prohibited from giving financial support to TVN, the No. 2 player, so the broadcaster will likely have to cut its programming budget.

Market leader UCTV has never reported to the Superitendencia, claiming that it is not autonomous but a dependency of the Catholic University and, as such, not required to reveal results.

This stance has been challenged, so far in vain, by the National TV Council.

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