Spain Says Hola to Digital Terrestrial

Madrid, Spain-Digital television here took another step forward this month with the May 5 launch of the country's first digital-terrestrial-television platform.

Quiero Televisión expects to have 1 million subscribers by 2003 and about 1.6 million by 2010-a figure that would represent 25 percent of the forecast pay TV market at that time, launch director Luis Sahún said.

The DTT platform can reach 60 percent of the Spanish population and, by the end of this year, it will be available to 83 percent of the country's homes. It is currently offering 14 channels and Internet access to its customers. "It is the first TV platform in the world that offers Internet, and it will help to get subscribers," Sahún said.

Quiero TV general manager Ildefonso de Miguel said the service should be able to break even at the 1 million-subscriber mark.

In the digital-television realm, Quiero TV is competing with direct-to-home platforms Vía Digital, led by telco Telefónica S.A., and Sogecable's Canal Satélite Digital, backed by France's Canal Plus S.A.

Quiero TV users can access interactive services, including electronic mail and electronic commerce, using a wireless keyboard.

The platform will invest 450 billion pesetas ($2.4 billion) over the next 10 years, de Miguel said. Most of that budget will be spent on programming, with about one-quarter of it going toward technology.

Quiero TV's channel lineup includes Gran Hermano (Big Brother), a 24-hour reality channel based on Dutch producer Endemol Entertainment's syndicated show of the same name.

Other Quiero TV channels are Eurosport, Showtime Extreme, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Studio Universal and Calle 13, the latter two of which are owned by Universal Studios.

Quiero TV shareholder and Spanish TV producer Media Park is contributing three of its channels: Cinematk Palomitas, Club Super 3 and Buzz.

Spanish broadcaster Retevisión S.A. owns 49 percent of Quiero TV, while Media Park holds 15 percent. Britain's Carlton Communications plc, a partner in British DTT platform ONdigital, owns 7.5 percent of the Spanish service.