Subs slip socks stock of satcaster

TOKYO — Leading Japanese direct-to-home satcaster Sky PerfecTV posted its lowest-ever monthly subscriber increase in February, and word of the erosion pulled down the company’s stock in Tokyo trading on Monday.

Its shares were down 6,000 yen ($50 ), or about 4%, in Tokyo to close on Monday at $1,366.

Increased competition from the launch of new satellite channels by Japan’s commercial networks last December weighed heavily on the company’s subscriber gains, it said.

The company, whose main investors are News Corp. Sony, Fuji Television Network and trading house Itochu, launched an IPO last year to pay off its debt and build a war chest for the battle with Japan’s new satellite channels.

Household and cooperative subscribers to Sky PerfecTV increased by 15,827 in February from the previous month to bring the total to 2.54 million.

By contrast, Sky PerfecTV was picking up about 40,000 to 50,000 subscribers a month during most of 2000.

Post-IPO blues

Market players feel that it may take Sky PerfecTV some time to start operating in the black. Last month, the satcaster said it posted a group net loss of $184.5 million for the April-December 2000 period as marketing and infrastructure costs ate into its bottom line.

Sky PerfecTV, listed on the venture-oriented Mothers section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, has seen its share price fall by about 50% since its listing last October, as market players indicated the price was set too high.

Sky PerfecTV is looking to the 2002 Soccer World Cup, to be co-hosted by Japan and South Korea, as a launching pad for new subscribers since it paid heavily for exclusive Japanese broadcasting rights to all of the matches.

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