MANILA, September 11, 2003  (STAR) By Zinnia B. Dela Peña  - ABS-CBN Global Ltd., a wholly-owned offshore subsidiary of media giant ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp., is set to launch this month its cable and direct-to-home/satellite programming services in Milan, Italy in line with the continued development of the network’s international business.

Through The Filipino Channel (TFC), the first and only 24-hour cable and satellite service that offers all-Filipino programming, Filipinos working or residing in Italy can keep abreast of the latest information or happenings in the Philippines.

Rene Encarnacion, senior vice-president of International Operations for ABS-CBN, said TFC will be commercially available via direct-to-home satellite service in mid-September. He said the company’s operations office in Milan had already started testing its signal last month.

Just like in the US and Middle East, the ABS-CBN lineup will include The Filipino Channel (TFC), which shows top-raters; ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC); Cinema One, an all-movie channel; and Pinoy Central, the variety channel which has entertainment and sports features.

ABS-CBN Global expects to attract some 500,000 Filipino households in Italy.

Encarnacion said the launch of TFC in Milan is in response to the increasing demand for entertainment and news programs in the rapidly growing overseas Filipino market in Italy.

"TFC’s entry in Milan is part of ABS-CBN Global’s move to further tap European countries where there are sizeable concentrations of Filipinos. We are confident that with the success of TFC Milan, we could be able to move into our new market in the United Kingdom," Encarnacion said.

TFC is seen by almost a million overseas Filipinos in North America, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, New Caledonia, Cambodia, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Papua New Guinea and Europe.

ABS-CBN Global was a key driver behind the 44-percent growth in the network’s net sales in the first semester. This unit pumped in P1.12 billion or 47 percent higher than a year ago due to the expansion in worldwide subscribers.

During the first half of 2003, the company’s worldwide subscribers had grown by 30 percent to 167,636 from a year ago, fueled by the 73-percent expansion in North America. ABS-CBN, which started its global expansion in 1998, likewise exports content programming to the Asia-Pacific region. Because of the strong growth of the global business, ABS CBN has been planning to list the international unit in a foreign stock exchange. Global sees a 20-percent growth in gross revenues and a 30-percent growth in subscriber base through the three-pronged strategy of better programming, more non-entertainment products, and improved customer relationships.

Apart from this, ABS-CBN is also looking at venturing the Canadian market given the high concentration of Filipinos in the country.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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