Sony, Fuji TV to join ASkyB as equal partners

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TOKYO -- Japanese electronics and entertainments group Sony and Fuji Television are to join News Corporation Ltd and Softbank Corp as management partners and shareholders in Japan Sky Broadcasting Co. Ltd, the planned satellite TV venture.

A joint press conference scheduled for May 14 in Tokyo will reveal details of the deal. However, it is understood that each company will become an equal partner, with $42m worth of shares. Sources had been predicting that Softbank, Japan's biggest software distributor, would attempt to wrest a bigger chunk of the equity for itself.

The agreement is a coup for JSkyB. The satellite platform is a latecomer to the market in Japan and it suffered a further set-back when its founders were forced in March to sell their stake in TV Asahi, which had been intended to help generate Japanese- language programs. The additional backing of Sony and Fuji Television will strengthen the venture considerably.

There are currently three broadcasters planning or already providing digital satellite multi-channel services in Japan: JSkyB; PerfecTV, owned primarily by trading companies including Nissho Iwai and Itochu; and DirecTV of the U.S., in which the Mitsubishi group is a leading investor.

Top executives from all of the four partners in JSkyB will attend the ASkyB press conference: Murdoch from News Corp, Masayoshi Son from Softbank, Nobuyuki Idei from Sony and Hisashi Hieda from Fuji.

Rupert Murdoch's media group News Corporation also operates American Sky Broadcasting (ASkyB) and British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB).

Copyright May 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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