Digital downloads more subs

Sogecable's TV platform looks healthy

MADRID — Spain’s merged digital TV platform Digital Plus added 50,000 new subscribers in September, its controlling shareholder Sogecable announced Monday.

Total subs stood at 2,412,000 Sept. 30 of which 1,815,000 are clients of Digital Plus. The remainder subscribe to the still popular analog feed of premium pay channel Canal Plus Espana.

Sub takeup is encouraging. The crunch will come, however, in early 2004 when pre-existing subscribers to Canal Satelite Digital and Via Digital, which merged this year to create Digital Plus, will be asked to pay more for their enhanced bouquets on Digital Plus.

The subscribers are currently on an extended promotion offer which lapses at year end.

Sogecable will take heart, however, from the fact more than a quarter of Digital Plus clients — 490,000 — have upgraded their programming choices.

Many can be expected to remain faithful to their new selections once the promotion ends.

Outlining its third quarter results, Sogecable announced net losses of 136.5 million euros ($156.9 million), owing to the anticipated extraordinary costs of financing the digital pay TV merger. Third quarter sub revenues stood at $271.1 million, up 25% from the same period in 2002, while earnings before interest, taxes, deductions and amortization (EBITDA) came in at a healthy $130.1 million.

“Sogecable losses were in line with expectations, but the EBITDA margins were higher than expected. The company is still on the road to becoming a cash cow,” said Enrique Jimenez, an analyst at Ibersecurities.

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