Peru's oldest cable station changes U.S. owners

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LIMA--The U.S.-based Vic Mar Corp. is taking a gamble that Peruvians want competition in the country's small cable TV market.

Vic Mar has officially taken over from another U.S.-based company, BellSouth, as the owner of Tele Cable, launched in 1989 as Peru's first cable TV company. The company has pledged to invest $170 million to modernize the company, starting with a change of name to Tele Cable Siglo 21, says Philip Brabyn, Vic Mar's strategic development director.

Tele Cable was launched by Tele 2000, a cellular phone company that BellSouth first joined as a partner in the mid-1990s and now fully owns. Its main competitor is Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica, which launched Cable Magico.

Tele Cable Siglo 21 aims to attract 40% to 50% of the Peruvian market within the next five years.

Vic Mar's first major problem occurred within days of its officially taking over Tele Cable on August 11. Two days into its administration, BellSouth cut off the Tele Cable signal, arguing that the company had millions of dollars in outstanding debts.

After quick negotiations and dueling statements in local newspapers, the two companies reached an agreement for Tele Cable to remain on the air while Vic Mar deals with the outstanding debts it unexpectedly inherited.

Copyright August 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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