Around The World: News Briefs From Europe, Asia/Pacific And Latin America

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In another busy week for earnings, both Liberty Global and Virgin Media reported much improved subscriber counts.

While operating income at Liberty Global fell to $86.8 billion in the third quarter, from $115 million a year earlier, revenues increased 39% to $2.26 billion and the operator added 385,000 organize RGUs, a significant improvement over the second quarter. It also slowed the loss of subscribers in Central and Eastern European systems that had been significantly hurt by increased competition in the second quarter.

In the U.K. Virgin Media also rebounded sharply from a disappointing second quarter, when it lost 40,300 RGUs after BSkyB pulled its basic channels over a carriage dispute. In the third quarter, revenues increased to £1.0 billion ($2.0 billion) as operating income improved to £46.7 million ($95.9 million) and the operator added 172,000 RGUs.

Separately, Virgin Media has expanded its VOD programming by adding about 80 hours of factual programming from National Geographic and Discovery.

In the largest expansion of its 27 year history, CNN is investing heavily in its international operations by significantly increasing the number of correspondents worldwide, opening a regional newsgathering hub in the United Arab Emirates, creating a London-based digital-production unit, and making major investments in CNN’s International Newsource and CNN’s in-house wire operations.

The European Commission has formally proposed a number of important regulatory changes that could have a widespread impact on the European telecommunications industry. The proposals include a controversial plan to separate the network and business units of the region’s telcos and the creation of a pan-European telco regulator that would standardize rules governing the telco industry and encourage competition in the broadband sectors.

Cable Europe, which represents the region’s cable operators, praised the Commission’s plans to deregulate the wholesale broadcast transmission services business and reduce the number of markets subject to mandatory regulation from 18 countries to seven, a move that would make it easier for cable operators to change their channel lineups and digitize their offering.

However, Cable Europe questioned the EC’s plan to create a pan European telco regulator and issued a statement arguing there should to be more research into the potential impact of its plan break up major telcos into a network and business units.

That part of the EC’s proposals has been widely praised by newer telcos but attacked by incumbent operators.

In the ongoing regulatory battle over BSkyB’s 17.9% stake in ITV, the U.K. broadcaster has come out against it’s largest shareholder, filing papers with the U.K. Competition Commission saying BSkyB’s investment would produce a “substantial loosening” of competition. The ITV is asking regulators to force BSkyB to sell its entire stake, an outcome that looks increasingly likely.

In Spain, The National Council of Competition is trying to block a plan by Sogecable and Telefónica to launch a joint triple play offering and work together to negotiate content deals with programmers.

As part of its ongoing international expansion NBC Universal has acquired JSBC2, which holds the broadcasting license for Reality TV on the SkyperfectTV DTH platform in Japan from Jupiter Telecommunications for an undisclosed sum and announced the launch of its first channel in Japan, the Sci Fi channel on Jupiter’s J:COM cable systems.

Separately, MSNBC has announced plans to launch its channel on Free2ViewTV satellite platform in South Africa.

Deutsche Telekom has reportedly received bids of €800 million to €900 million ($1.2 billion to $1.3 billion) for its media broadcast business from two private equity groups.

Faced with mounting financial problems and heavy debts, several top executives at the Asian VOD operator Anytime, which is part owned by several Hollywood, have resigned and the operators has shut down operations, The Hollywood Reporter. The on demand service, which is trying to restructure its debts, reportedly owes about $8 million in unpaid fees to the studios.

In Russia, Discovery Networks has named the media sales agency Video International Group the exclusive seller of airtime on Discovery Channel in Russia.

In HDTV news, Telia in Sweden has announced plans to begin testing in late November the delivery of HDTV over its broadband network, with possible launch of the service in 2008.

In the mobile sector, Orange Spain has launched mobile HDTV services, offering three channels from MTV, National Geographic and Sci Fi.

In Japan, Disney and Softbank Mobile Corp. have applied to regulators for a license to offer a new mobile service Disney Mobile.

On the tech front, Reliance Communications and Microsoft have announced deal to deploy an IPTV service in India in March of 2008 powered by Microsoft Mediaroom platform; the contract is estimated to be worth $500 million.

Also in India, Sun Direct TV has selected OpenTV to an end-to-end solution for the deployment of digital TV services.

NDS has opened a new office in Korea to capitalize on the market’s move to digital services; NDS says its solutions are already used by operators with about 70% of the market.

MEASAT will be distributing the VOOM HD Network in Asia, the Middle East and East Africa.

Portuguese MSO Cabovisao has selected ARRIS D5 Universal Edge QAMs for its digital rollout.

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