<DOCID> nyt960214.0704 </DOCID>
<STORYID cat=f pri=u> A4479 </STORYID>
<SLUG fv=taf-z> BC-MURDOCH-SATELLITE-NYT </SLUG>
<DATE> 02-14 </DATE>
<NWORDS> 0608 </NWORDS>
MURDOCH SATELLITE FOR LATIN PROGRAMMING EXPLODES ON TAKEOFF
By MARK LANDLER
c.1996 N.Y. Times News Service
A Chinese rocket carrying a television satellite exploded
seconds after launch Wednesday, dealing a potential blow to Rupert
Murdoch's ambitions to offer satellite programming in Latin
Murdoch's News Corp. is one of four media companies in a
partnership that had leased space on the Intelsat satellite to
offer the Latin American service. The other partners are
Tele-Communications Inc., the nation's largest cable operator;
Grupo Televisa SA, the Mexican broadcaster and publisher, and the
giant Brazilian media conglomerate Globo.
Llennel Evangelista, a spokesman for Intelsat, a global
satellite consortium based in Washington, said the accident
occurred at 2 p.m. EST Wednesday, or early Thursday morning at the
Xichang launch site in Sichuan Province in southwestern China. ``We
have no details on what caused the accident,'' he said.
Evangelista said the Chinese-built Long March rocket veered off
course and was destroyed after it failed to reach orbit. Intelsat
was using the Long March rocket for the first time to launch one of
its satellites. Intelsat currently has 23 satellites in orbit.
A spokesman for News Corp., Howard Rubenstein, said the accident
would not hinder the group's plans to offer 150 channels of
entertainment, news and sports programming to viewers in Latin
America and the Caribbean.
``News Corp. has a number of other real options and will
disclose them shortly,'' Rubinstein said in a statement.
Grupo Televisa and Globo plan to offer national and local
programming in Spanish and Portuguese. Initially, the venture's
partners said they planned to invest $500 million.
But a similar explosion last year delayed the plans of several
American media companies to offer a package of satellite television
services in Asia. Viacom, Time Warner's Home Box Office and Turner
Broadcasting System were among the companies that had leased space
on an Apstar 2 satellite to beam MTV, CNN and other channels
After the rocket carrying that satellite exploded, media
analysts said the companies had to settle for space on a series of
regional satellites, which had less reach than the Apstar 2 would
News Corp. actually benefited from that accident. In 1993, the
company had purchased a controlling stake in a rival Asian
satellite service, Star TV. With his biggest competitors unable to
enter the Asian market, Murdoch was able to build Star TV into the
dominant programming service.
A spokeswoman for Tele-Communications, LaRae Marsik, said the
partners in the Latin American venture intended to begin service by
the end of 1996. When the companies announced their plans last
November, they said they planned to be in business by May.
Ms. Marsik said Tele-Communications and its partners had a
back-up plan, which could include leasing space on another
satellite, but she declined to offer details. ``It is an
unfortunate incident,'' she said, ``but it is not a
make-it-or-break-it event for us.''
Jessica Reif, a media analyst at Merrill Lynch & Co., said, ``If
they can get up and running with exclusive programming within six
months, it doesn't set the venture back that far.''
Hughes Electronics, a subsidiary of the General Motors Corp., is
starting its own satellite broadcast service in Latin America. Ms.
Reif said that venture, which is based on Hughes's DirecTV service
in the United States, would benefit if the explosion delayed the