Companies' losses add to sector's woes

If Admira and Sogecable ever needed ammunition to argue the need for a merger of their digital platforms, they’ve just got it: Sogecable’s first-quarter figures are just so-so and Admira’s are arguably the worst in its corporate history.

Both results will add to the gloom of Spanish Croisette crawlers, emphasising that neither company has money to burn to splash out on acquisitions.

They also suggest a new priority in the international digital TV business: Companies are now focusing more strictly on the sober task of delivering profits rather than driving up subs.

The owner of premium channel Canal Plus Espana, satcaster Canal Satelite Digital and production-distribution combo Sogecine-Sogepaq, Sogecable reported first-quarter net losses of 10.5 million euros ($9.2 million).

Those are still figures that most digital TV operators in Europe would kill for.

But losses are 21% up on the same period in 2001, and January-March subscriber growth at CSD reached just 27,000.

“Subscriber growth was disappointing, margins were really disappointing,” says an analyst.

Sogecable also took a hit from a drop in revenues from the sale of soccer rights to other operators, and soccer rights costs that were consolidated in the early part of the year.

“Currently, Sogecable’s emphasis is on driving profitability rather than aggressively going for subscriber growth,” says Ian Whittaker, a media analyst at Merrill Lynch.

Meanwhile, Admira lost $117.8 million in the first quarter. “That’s largely due to Argentina,” says Chapman.

Admira has made provisions against its investment in Azul. Peso revenues dropped 46% at broadcaster Telefe owner Atco, while the peso slumped 50% against the U.S. dollar.

Once a cash cow, but no hit hard by TV ad decreases, Antena 3 posted a loss ($87,000), despite increasing its market share.

Sales even dropped 19% at Endemol due to broadcasters cutting back in acquisitions in the Netherlands, Germany and the U.K.

Digital TV operator Via Digital’s losses appear to have bottomed out but still stood at $61 million for the quarter.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more