Sky claims half million DTH subscribers in Latin America

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MIAMI--Direct-to-home provider Sky says it has reached 518,000 subscribers in Latin America as of September 30, edging out its rival, Galaxy Latin America's DirecTV.

The Sky service is backed by the alliance of Brazil's Organizacoes Globo, Grupo Televisa, News Corp. and Tele-Communications International Inc. Globo is the majority owner of the Brazilian platform, NetSat, while Televisa is the main investor in the local Mexican platform, known as Innova. Sky has local partners in Colombia and Chile, but Sky Latin America is responsible for those countries and other markets in the region via a third platform known as Sky Multi-Country Partners. Galaxy Latin America's DirecTV is available in more markets and is believed to have close to 500,000 subscribers.

However, Sky and Galaxy measure subscriber counts differently: Sky counts a subscriber once the person is signed up. Galaxy does not count a subscriber until he/she begins paying for the service, since its first month is typically offered free of charge.

Sky did not provide a breakdown by market of subscribers, but most are likely concentrated in the key markets of Brazil and Mexico, which launched in October and December, respectively, of 1996.

In a release, Sky said the Brazilian service grew by 33% in the third quarter. Mexico grew by 20% in the same period and Innova claims a 70% market share in DTH.

Sky launched its DTH service Colombia in December 1997 and in Chile on Sept. 27, 1998. It plans to launch next in Argentina, to be followed by Venezuela and Peru.

Copyright November 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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