Economy doubles loss for feevee Sogecable

Subscriber growth expected to be stronger in late 2002

MADRID — Leading pay TV operator Sogecable’s first-half net losses doubled to €15 million ($15 million) as it battles higher operating costs and a slower Spanish economy.

Sogecable is a joint venture of managing shareholder Prisa and Vivendi Universal’s Canal Plus Group, with 21% apiece.

Revenues held at $495.8 million, some $170,000 up on a year earlier.

Results still rate Sogecable as one of the best-performing pay TV operators in continental Europe, however.

While subscription for analog and digital versions of premium channel Canal Plus Espana climbed just 19,000 from January to June, first-half takeup is traditionally slow in Spain: Subscriber growth is expected to be far stronger in second-half 2002, driven by the start of the season for Spain’s soccer league.

Sogecable’s immediate future turns on approval for the mooted merger of Canal Plus Espana and Sogecable satcaster Canal Satelite Digital with rival digital platform Via Digital. European Union antitrust authorities are expected to announce mid-August whether the merger merits in-depth consideration or if it can be turned over to Spanish competition regulators.

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