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STAR close to deal on direct-to-home

16-January-2004
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STAR close to deal on direct-to-home

Rupert Murdoch’s STAR is in the process of finalising its direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting deal, it is learnt. Chief executive officer of the STAR group Michelle Guthrie and chief operating officer Steve Askew are in Mumbai till Saturday primarily for this purpose, sources close to the development said. There are indications that the broadcaster may submit its DTH application to the government as early as end of this month.

STAR, as was earlier reported, is likely to tie up with the Tatas for its ambitious DTH venture. According to sources, the agreement would be with the Tata holding company.

Ms Guthrie, who had taken over as the CEO when Mr James Murdoch was appointed head of News Corp’s DTH operation in the UK, BSkyB, had earlier visited India November last.

STAR was earlier in the midst of a controversy for floating ‘Space TV’ for its DTH venture. Government had not cleared that application due to apprehensions on the Space TV’s financial viability and its relations with the STAR group. (As per DTH norms, the FDI limit in a venture is 20 per cent and total foreign investment 49 per cent.) Subsequently, STAR decided to rework its DTH venture.

Although STAR has lost the first mover advantage on launching DTH, it is likely to make up on other fronts.

In the UK, BSkyB is known to have dished out set-top boxes on heavy disounts and even free of cost initially.

Currently, Subhash Chandra-promoted ASC Enterprises is the only player to have a DTH platform in India. Prasar Bharati is also expected to launch its Ku band venture (similar to DTH, but in free-to-air mode) in April. Ms Guthrie joined STAR in Hong Kong in June 2000. Before that, she was in the legal department of Foxtel, Australia. She has also worked with BSkyB.

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