Hughes To Bow Pan-Latin Sat Network

The race to offer a pan-Latin American direct-to-home satellite service begins in earnest this week, when Hughes Communications officially unveils its Galaxy Latin America (GLA) project.

Slated to launch in February 1996, the project is a joint venture between majority partner Hughes and four international players: leading Venezuelan network Venevision, top Mexican paybox Multivision, Brazil’s fast-growing pay TV provider TV A, and U.S. paybox HBO. Hughes will launch the satellite Galaxy 3R in late summer

Galaxy Latin America (GLA) is expected to go head to head next year with PanAmSat’s Galavision direct-to-home satellite, which will involve, among others, Mexico’s Televisa. That service will go operative in January 1996, after which the two direct-to-home systems will compete to satisfy pay TV demand in an arena where cable penetration is barely 10%.

The GLA partners declined to comment, but Hughes is said to have the major advantage of direct-to-home experience in the U.S. Since its launch last year, Hughes’ domestic DirecTV service has netted an estimated 400,000 subscribers.

Many programmers see direct-to-home delivery of satellite signals as key to Latin American pay TV fulfilling its potential. Hughes’ business plan reportedly aims for a pan-Latin subscriber count of 5 million to 6 million within 10 years.

It is still unclear what programming the four Latin American partners will be offering on GLA and how many other program providers will come on board by launch time.

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