Conglom may break even by end of 2000

MADRID — Film and TV conglom Sogecable has reported a consolidated loss of $24.2 million for 1998 but is predicting a medium-term return to profitability by the end of the year 2000.

In a financial scenario that looks like a mirror image of that of its 25% shareholder, giant French paybox Canal Plus France, Sogecable has been hit hard by heavy investment in its digital platform CanalSatelite Digital (CSD).

Last year was the first in which it had to absorb vastly hiked costs for exclusive pay TV rights to Spanish soccer league games, for which it will put out $100 million a year over the seasons 1998-99 to 2000-01. So while CSD revenues rose 292% to $294.5 million, losses also climbed 28% to $114.8 million.

Yet with subscriptions currently at 665,000 and looking to pass 900,000 by year-end, according to recent sub-growth rates, Sogecable sources are predicting that CSD should break even in late 2000.

Total 1998 revenues for Sogecable, a joint venture of Canal Plus France and Spanish publishing giant Prisa, were up 18% to $687.8 million, spurred by a rock-solid performance by the 9-year-old premium movie and sports channel Canal Plus Spain, which posted a 1998 gross profit of $82.8 million.

Sogecable production division Sogetel also had an excellent year. Its productions, often domestic co-productions, grossed a total $18.6 million in Spain, or a whammo 37% of total B.O. in Spain for Spanish pics over the year, a performance only matched by Spain’s other production giant, Lola Films, with 35% of local pics’ total 1998 domestic gross.

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