Argentine Group To Bow Satcaster

While rival consortia led by Hughes Communications and Rupert Murdoch prepare to launch directto-home (DTH) television operations in Latin America, an Argentine group has set up its own satcaster to compete for subscribers.

Limited service

Directed chiefly at Chile and Uruguay, the as-yet unnamed service could launch ahead of its powerful rivals with a limited, 10-channel service in January.

Backers include Argentine newspapers La Nacion and Canadian satellite operator Tele- Sat. These investors also have a stake in Paracom Satellites, which owns two satellites to be used for the DTH project.

According to Paracom director Gustavo Lerner, the Argentine service may wait a few months and start out with 20 signals. Either way, it will include pay-per-view movies, Argentine channels and several U.S. cable nets; exclusive programming, including soccer, would follow.

The $10 million start-up cost is minuscule next to the $500 million-plus budgets of the 150-channel projects from Hughes and Murdoch. But the expected cost to the subscriber appears similar: a $30 monthly subscription and an $800 decoder box leased from local banks over an 8-month to 3-year period.

Competitive edge

Lerner claims he has a competitive advantage over Hughes in having secured a national license for DTH operations. However, industry analysts doubt that Hughes will difficulty obtaining local satellite “landing rights.”

Paracom has subleased its license from NahuelSat, a company owned by Argentine telco Telecom and three European aerospace companies. NahuelSat will assume Paracom’s DTH and other operations late next year when its own satellites are launched.

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