MADRID — Spain looks set to host a third major digital TV operator. But its entry into the sector could sow even further discord in an already highly confused and confrontational digital market. Powerful cable investor Cableurope announced Thursday that it plans to offer digital TV services, not only to cable heads in Spain, but also direct-to-home by satellite delivery.
Cableurope packs a strong shareholding punch of top Spanish banks, the Banco de Santander (27.5%) and the Banco Central Hispano (BCH, 20%), plus Spainco, a joint venture of General Electric, Bank of America and Callaghan Associates, which took 32.5% of Cableurope last month.
Already running pilot MSOs in Spain, Cableurope has applied for many of the regional cable TV franchises now being placed on offer by Spain’s government. It looks set to become, along with telco Telefonica, one of the two top cable TV operators in the country. Cableuropa’s plan to move into DTH digital TV services reflects its desire to accelerate its push into Spain and to defend open-access digital decoders. According to a press statement Thursday, it also aims to build totally digitalized cable networks in Spain.
Cableuropa sent a letter to the European Commission on June 16 coming out in favor of the use of the open-access “multicrypt” decoders for Spain. These would allow Cableuropa subscribers technological access to the programming of Spain’s two digital platforms, Canal Satellite Digital (CSD), launched in January, and Via Digital, up-and-running from September.
If the two platforms were to come to an agreement to use proprietary, “simulcrypt” decoders, they could raise objections to supplying their programming to Cableuropa, drastically limiting its cable market penetration.