HBO Ole, Galaxy pact

Exclu deal to up premium p'gramming in Argentina

MIAMI — Leading Latino cabler HBO Latin America has pacted with satcaster Galaxy Latin America (GLA) for an exclusive Argentine carriage deal that could change the face of premium programming in the region.

The result of unusually complex and controversial talks, the deal follows the exit of HBO film nets — conduits for pics from Warner, Sony, Disney and DreamWorks — from Argentina’s top cable systems on January 1.

That move, provoked by discord over pricing, left GLA as sole carrier of the nets in Argentina, save a few provincial cable systems (which will retain the HBO services).

Other pacts possible

Now that the exclusive relationship has been formalized, HBO Latino prexy Ele Juarez told Daily Variety that further such deals — with GLA or other carriers — could follow in other territories.

“After two-and-a-half years of playing games, we’re finally turning Argentina into a premium territory,” Juarez said, referring to reluctance by MSOs to introduce the encrypted premium tiers for which HBO’s film nets were designed.

Deal was complicated by the fact that GLA’s local distribution partner, the Clarin Group, is also owner of one of the two main MSOs that had fallen out with HBO.

Subs sink

That operator, Multicanal, and TCI-backed rival CableVision together control about 3 million of Argentina’s 5.3 million subs — and sources say the two have lost a combined 220,000 homes since HBO nets disappeared from their screens.

However, GLA’s Argentine sub count is barely 50,000, so the satcaster and the cabler appear to have capitalized on those cable cancellations less than they would have liked.

The GLA-HBO deal now raises the question whether their direct rivals, satcaster Sky and cabler LAPTV (backed by Universal, Paramount, Fox and MGM), will seek a similar pact; Sky plans to bow in Argentina later this year.