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GALAXY EXPANDING

Satcaster bolsters Latin America DirecTV

MEXICO CITY – Latino satcaster Galaxy Latin America has booked a second Hughes satellite to serve its recently launched DirecTV service, the company announced Monday.

Costing $250 million, Galaxy VIII-I is slated to launch next September.

It will allow Latino DirecTV subscribers – currently getting nearly 70 channels of video and 30 of digital music – to receive 145 video channels, 66 of music and 27 of such “value added” services as Internet access and videogames.

Backed by Hughes subsid DirecTV Intl., Venezuela’s Cisneros Group and Mexican and Brazilian payboxes Multivision and TVA, GLA has gradually rolled out in its three Latino member countries since last July. The satcaster is estimated to have signed up around 100,000 subscribers to date.

GLA’s CEO Jose Antonio Rios said the service would bow in Central America and Ecuador later this month, and in Chile, Colombia and Argentina in early 1997. Rival satcaster Sky, launched in October in Brazil, hopes to bow in Mexico this week.

Notably, GLA seems to have revised its operational break-even target. Earlier this year the satcaster – whose start-up budget has been put at $850 million – talked of an 18-month goal, while Rios now says break-even is likely at two-and-a-half or three years of operations.

Rios also said DirecTV’s programming slate would grow by nine or 10 channels in March, with new webs including two joint venture signals from the Cisneros Group: a docu channel tentatively called Tierra in development with National Geographic, and women’s web Cosmopolitan, in a joint venture with Hearst Corp.

Multivision prexy Ernesto Vargas added that his company is talking with the Big Three U.S. nets about distributing a channel of combined ABC, NBC and CBS programming throughout Latin America via DirecTV. Multivision already carries such a net on MMDS, its domestic wireless cable service.

Spain talks still on

Meanwhile, DirecTV Intl. and the Cisneros Group continue to talk to Spanish paybox Sogecable about investing in the latter’s planned digital TV platform (contrary to recent reports of a rupture between these parties), Rios told Daily Variety.

“We didn’t want to tie ourselves in before the panorama in Spain became clear,” Rios said. “We’ll make a decision in the next three or four months.”

Sky’s Mexico partner Televisa has already committed to a rival Spanish satcaster consortium led by telco Telefonica and also including broadcasters RTVE and Antena 3.

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