Japanese satellite channels unveil SkyPerfecTV

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TOKYO -- Two Japanese satellite broadcasting platforms, PerfecTV and JSkyB, will merge to create the largest direct satellite company in the country, which will take to the air in May.

The two will form "SkyPerfecTV," which will start service on May 1 with 140 to 160 chan nels, officials for the two platforms said at a Tokyo press conference. The two firms inked a merger agreement earlier this week to create a new company with a capitalization of $315 million.

The new company hopes to line up more than one million subscribers from Japan's 44 mil lion households by the end of the year. PerfecTV, which has been up and running for about a year and a half, has over 600,000 subscribers. JSkyB was scheduled to start service in April.

The major investors in the new platform are Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., Sony Corp., Fuji Television Network Inc., Softbank Corp. and Japanese trading house Itochu Corp. Each com pany will have an 11.375% stake in the new firm.

Trading firms Sumitomo Corp., Nissho Iwai Corp. and Mitsui & Co. will hold 6.83% shares and Japan Satellite Systems Inc. has 6.88%.

PerfecTV President Koya Mita will be the pres ident of the new venture. He said at the press conference that consolidation in Japan's satel lite broadcasting network was inevitable. "Cut throat competition among three service provi ders would not do any good for the industry," he said.

The merger leaves DirecTV Japan as the odd man out. DirecTV, partially owned by Hughes Electronics Corp., started service in Japan in December.

Japan's Post and Telecommunications Ministry is standing behind the merger, industry sources said. The ministry is likely to soon give the nod to a number of channels that have applied for broadcast licenses on the new platform.

According to Denstu Inc., advertising on cable TV and satellite broadcasters was $157 million in 1997 and the sector has been rack ing up double digit growth in expenditures for most of the 1990s.

Copyright March 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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