DirecTV Japan numbers below expectations

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TOKYO -- DirecTV Japan released its first set of subscriber numbers since it started service last December and says it has enlisted 109,000 customers.

The company, which spent millions of dollars on an advertising campaign with Arnold Schwartz- enegger, says Japan's economic doldrums have hurt its subscriber numbers.

``The subscriber number is respectable, given the hard economic situation in Japan,'' says Chair- man Gareth C.C. Chang. The company expects to see better numbers once the Japanese economy improves, he adds.

DirecTV is facing tough competition in Japan from the 171-channel Sky PerfecTV platform, which currently has about 672,000 subscribers.

Sky PerfecTV is aiming to attract 800,000 sub- scribers by the end of this year and says it needs about two million subscribers before it can start operating in the black.

DirecTV's Mr. Chang says his company has had trouble figuring out the Japanese market and is also disappointed in the inability to enlist sub- scribers of its major backer, the Culture Conven- ience Club Tsutaya video rental chain.

``The Tsutaya store is not doing as well as we [thought]. It has not come up to speed as we orig- inally expected,'' Mr. Chang says.

DirecTV is currently considering putting advertis- ing on some of its pay-per-view and premium chan- nels, but it has not made any decision on the sub- ject.

Mr. Chang refuses to set any subscriber targets for Japan but says the platform will expand from the current 88 channels to 130 channels in the fall.

He also says the Asian economic crisis has preven- ted DirecTV from setting up shop in places such as India and Indonesia.

DirecTV Japan is owned in part by Hughes Electronics of the U.S.

Copyright May 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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