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U.S. $ heavily into world cable expansion.

The cable revolution, which is already drastically changing the face and structure of American TV, is now gradually spreading to the rest of the world, and American money is heavily involved.

Whereas cable growth in the U.S. is reaching a plateau, cable abroad is essentially still in its infancy and the subscriber base had been growing relatively slowly.

But this is now speeding up, and the coming decade will see a cable explosion all over the world.

Cable revenue is generally put at around $ 22 billion in the U.S. and is rising gradually as a wider array of channels goes into operation and fiber optic cable links allow closer integration with the telephone and the computer in the home.

American cable program providers, along with cable operators, are also focusing on ongoing cable growth in Europe, the Far East and especially in Latin America.

There are some governments which resist American intrusion. In South Korea, for instance, which so fair has only two pilot cable services, Seoul has indicated it wants to reserve cable for local interests, and the Economic Planning Board has announced that no foreign participation in cable development is anticipated. The U.S. State Department is reportedly getting into the act of putting pressure on the Koreans to allow American bids.

For the U.S. companies, the advantages of these cable investments are obvious. They hope to participate in the growth of a potentially lucrative new broadcast segment and, simultaneously, provide themselves with guaranteed new outlets for their software. For the cable operators abroad, the dollars provide much-needed capital and, in many cases, an assured program supply.

Steven Rosenberg, senior v.p. of HBO International, sees international as "a very big growth area" for cable, and adds that "everybody is looking at it."

Back in 1991, HBO was one of the first to recognize the international cable promise when it started its Latin American pay-TV channel, HBO Ole. Since then HBO has invested in cable systems in places as far apart as Hungary, Singapore, New Zealand and Scandinavia and its programs are carried on satellite for Southeast Asia.

But the cable start-up in Latin America generally has been slow, and the same is true of France, Britain, and other countries. Japan's cable expansion started sluggishly and only accelerated driving the past couple of years. Italy has no cable at all. In France, Lyonnaise Communications, one of three major cablers in the country, recently reported $ 32 million loss for 1992.

Only Germany in recent years has sprouted a host of satellite cable services. There is RTL and, is of last month, RTL2. There is Leo Kirch's SAT I and Pro 7 Parallel to this is Kabel Kanal, which aims at the older generations. ZDF has 3 Sat (in which the Austrian ORF is a partner) and ARD has 1 Plus, which appears to be on its last legs.

In Berlin, Ulrich Schamoni has won out over Klaus Groenke to win Germany's first regional TV license. His partners are Time Warner, along with Central European Development Corp., also active in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia, which has introduced a cable system of its own.

In Austria, which has no commercial television, Vienna is serve by no fewer than 21 cable channels carrying signals from neighboring countries.

Pay TV comes to Italians via to licensed broadcast channels.

Holland is one of the places where pay-TV has caught on There are some five million cable homes and John Kraan of NCVR Television said Dutch cable is now strong enough to effectively compete with the terrestrial networks for programming.

The Dutch Kindernet cable programmer wants to extend its service to a full 12 hours. It's currently received in some four million cable homes but is fighting competition from the Children's Channel to which about a million households subscribe.

In Britain, on the other hand, there are only around a half million cable homes, though American interest in furthering UK cable is strong. Among the U.S. companies interested is the TCI, the largest cable operator in the country which is seeking international cable investment opportunities.

The American TV networks also are setting their sights on cable abroad, particularly when it comes to the burgeoning Latin American market. NBC transmits in Spanish, and so does fox, CNN International and - in a major way - MTV, which both owns channels and licenses the MTV name.

Capital Cities/ABC has been something of a pioneer in international cable and has invested in German cable, and - with France's Canal Plus - in the TESN sports channel which has now merged with Eurosport, which operates along the lines of the ABC owned ESPN in the U.S.

The American cable networks themselves have their eyes on markets abroad. A breakdown provided by the National Cable Association shows, among others, CMT: Country Music Television having launched its service in the UK, with other European countries, Japan and a number of Asian countries to come.

MTV is available in 13 million cable homes in Latin America, a 20 hour MTV service in Japan, is to expand to 24 hours by the end of this year and MTV U.S. program blocks are seen in Mexico, Venezuela and Costa Rica. In Asia alone MTV reaches over three million households in 30 countries via satellite.

USA Network plans to invest in European, British and Asian cable during 1993. The Family Channel is exploring Eastern European deals and is preparing a UK version.

Turner's cable service boasts of more than a million subscribers throughout Latin America. Its cartoon service has just launched there on a 24-hour basis. TNT is pushing aggressively into Europe.

CNBC has five of its shows on the Super Channel. The Discovery Channel has a daily four hours of television on Tevel Ltd., Israel's largest cable operator, and Nickelodeon and Britain's Sky Broadcasting have launched a joint venture under which Sky will carry 12 hours of Nickelodeon children's shows in the UK as of October 1993.

Spelling Entertainment announced the formation of Spelling Satellite Networks Inc. "to develop and launch cable networks worldwide" and, almost immediately, opened its first cable channel, Tele-UNO, in Mexico. It's operated with Mexico's Multivision and, later this year, should reach out also to Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil and the Caribbean. it's on the air 24 hours a day and Spelling is responsible for all acquisition. marketing and sales activities.

Also reportedly focusing on Latin American pay TV are a group of Hollywood studios, including Paramount, Universal and MGM. They plan to create a movie channel called CineCanal. Argentina is well covered by cable, and both Chile and Venezuela are ready for cable expansion. in Brazil, legislative squabbles are seen as likely to delay cable for years.

In the Far East, cable introduction in potentially lucrative Hong Kong is up in the air, with the Chinese government blocking development. Wharf Cable, which has ambitious cable plans, is caught in the tensions between the Hong Kong and Beijing governments. China is scheduled to take over the Crown Colony in 1997, and has threatened not to honor contracts signed by Britain's current Hong Kong administration.

Wharf's plans call for seven channels, including a Chinese-language news and current affairs service, a movie and entertainment channel, sports channel, etc.

In Germany, which had its first cable experiment in 1984, the launch of the n-tv cable news service was called "epochal" by the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. Time Warner is involved along with Turner. Also joining the news frayin Germany is Vox, an offspring of the Bertelsman Group. It has an initial budget of close to $ 200 million and will be picked up by cable as well as on terrestrial frequencies.

ZDF and the other German public TV broadcaster, ARD, are hatching plans for a joint news service on cable after ZDF's plans for a news partnership with CNN and Ted Turner fell through in the wake of Turner's decision to acquire a 27 5 per cent interest in N-TV. Meanwhile, in France TFI is going ahead with its plans to create a head line news service in the CNN mold and aimed via satellite at European cable.
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Publication:Video Age International
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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