Sky subs pass Galaxy in Brazil

High-stakes battle heating up

RIO DE JANEIRO — Nearly two years after launch, Globo-backed satcaster Sky has, for the first time, moved into the lead in the high-stakes battle for subscribers in Brazil.

Sky Brasil has overtaken Galaxy Brasil — which launched first and whose local partner is paybox TVA — with 188,000 subscribers against 176,000, the company reports.

Third-party sources confirm that Sky, which also is backed by News Corp., TCI Intl. and Brazil’s RBS, has edged into the lead.

Both Sky and Galaxy, which pan-regionally are investing $1 billion apiece in start-up costs, view Brazil as by far their most important market.

Merger on horizon?

The race for subscribers is closely observed, due to speculation that the services may some day be forced to merge — putting the player with most homes in prime negotiating position.

Sky Brasil’s recent growth owes much to its transfer of 68,000 subs from a pre-existing, Globo-run service — a C-band satcaster with limited channel capacity — to 80-channel, Ku-band service Sky.

The transfer, which began in late March and is mostly complete, has cost an estimated $600 per subscriber, a sum swallowed by Sky’s local distributor.

TVA, which has 71,600 C-band subs of its own, may now follow suit, said Galaxy Brasil marketing director, Paulo Octavio Pereira de Almeida.

Comparisons difficult

The official added that Sky’s figures include multiple homes in apartment buildings that share a single decoder box, invalidating direct comparison with Galaxy subs.

Such homes (former subscribers to the C-band service) do not have access to pay-per-view services, he said.

In third place is local player TecSat, backed by equipper Tectelcom, that claims around 20,000 homes.

(Andrew Paxman in Miami contributed to this story.)

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