Rio De Janiero, Brazil -- The country's direct-to-home
(DTH) satellite TV industry is staying on as growth trajectory, with subscribership set to
top 1 million by the third quarter of this year, according to a recent forecast from local
media-research firm Pay TV Survey (PTS).
In the last quarter of 1999, Brazil's DTH subscriber base
rose by 60 percent, to 810,000 from 511,000, compared to the same period a year ago, PTS
said. Brazil has three DTH platforms: NetSat's Sky Brasil, DirecTV Brasil -- both local
units of panregional services -- and domestic player TecSat. PTS did not provide
platform-specific subscriber numbers.
NetSat is 54 percent owned by Brazilian media giant
Organizaçoes Globo, with minority stakes held by News Corp. and AT&T Corp.'s Liberty
Media International Inc. DirecTV Brasil is owned by Venezuela's Cisneros Group of Cos. and
Hughes Electronics Corp., which has majority control.
DTH operators' share of the country's entire pay TV
subscriber universe widened to 27 percent from 19 percent during the same year-over-year
Meanwhile, cable's share shrank to 60 percent from 67
percent, and multichannel-multipoint distribution services' (MMDS) share slid to 10
percent from 12 percent.
"The impressive [DTH] growth is due to the fact that
satellite operators reach areas where cable and MMDS operators are not present," said
PTS analyst Otavio Jordanovsky. "In these areas, customers have no pay TV services,
except the ones provided by DTH operators."
Falling prices are also fueling DTH growth. Equipment and
installation costs for Sky and DirecTV are about $220, compared to $550 when they launched
a few years ago.
Sky provides Ku-band coverage over all of Brazil,
Jordanovsky said. DirecTV's Ku-band coverage isn't quite as wide, but it offers C-band
coverage to fill the gaps, he added.
DTH is the only form of pay TV in a number of major markets
in Brazil, including Salvador, one of the country's five biggest cities.
Analysts expect DTH operators to continue their aggressive
expansion, thanks to their nationwide coverage and Brazil's economic recovery.
In the long run, however, DTH's market share could decline
due to renewed cable and MMDS growth. In 2003, Ku-band operators will account for
estimated 21.3 percent of Brazil's pay TV market, according to PTS. Cable's share,
meanwhile, is expected to grow to 65.1 percent. Wireless cable is expected to have a 13.6
percent market share.