Pay TV execs vow to block telcos

Brazilian feevee confab and mart wraps

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian feevee confab and mart ABTA 2007 wrapped Thursday with executives optimistic about the sector’s expansion but still concerned about telcos muscling in on pay TV.

Operators at the three-day meet celebrated the news that subscribers had risen to 4.9 million as of June 30, up 12% higher from a year earlier. Cable modem subs reached 1.4 million in the first half, up 55%.

Revenue totaled 1.6 billion reals ($840 million) in the second quarter of 2007, up 19% from the same time the previous year.

But operators are concerned about competition from the three mighty telcos — Spain’s Telefonica, Oi (formerly named Telemar) and Brasil Telecom — that plan to offer triple-play packages of fixed-line phones, broadband Internet and pay TV.

Telefonica got around regulatory obstacles by launching a satellite feevee service via a partner company last year. It recently received the approval for its own satellite license.

Authorities also cleared Telefonica’s purchase of a stake in TVA, Brazil’s No. 2 cabler.

Pay TV operators want rules preventing all three from entering the feevee market.

If authorities do not act, said the operators’ representatives on ABTA 2007’s main panel, telcos will destroy their smaller pay TV rivals and then increase prices.

That argument did not impress Oi chief exec Luiz Eduardo Falco.

“There are at least 20 million potential triple-play customers in Brazil,” he told the ABTA panel. “Pay TV operators have just 5 million subscribers. How about the other 15 million customers? If they (pay TV operators) will not invest, then let us invest.”

Oi is trying to buy WayTV, a cabler in Minas Gerais state. Regulatory agency Anatel nixed the deal, but Oi has appealed, and the agency will re-examine the case by the end of the month.

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