* Satellite, cable TV fastest-growing segments
* Gaming services for Latam on the radar
* Slim has yet to enter Mexico’s television market
By Cyntia Barrera
MEXICO CITY, June 5 (Reuters) - Mexico’s Carlos Slim hopes to raise the number of pay television subscribers in Latin America by a fifth this year, a top executive at the tycoon’s giant mobile service America Movil (AMXL.MX) said on Tuesday.
Slim has recently launched a drive to capture new markets in Europe, but America Movil still sees plenty of room for growth in Latin America, Oscar Von Hauske, the company’s head of fixed operations, told Reuters in an interview.
“We already have 14 million pay TV clients (as of March). We are adding about 230,000 monthly clients,” said Von Hauske, adding that the company aimed to maintain that pace in 2012.
At that rate the pay TV subscriber base - which includes satellite and cable services - will grow by nearly 20 percent in 2012, down from around 33 percent the previous year.
Pay TV, which contributed 8.1 percent of America Movil’s first-quarter revenue, is its fastest-growing division, offering cable or satellite from Guatemala to Argentina.
But America Movil, which has operations in 16 Latin American countries, has yet to enter the television market in Mexico. The Mexican government has kept it out due to competition concerns about Slim, the world’s richest man.
Instead Slim, who controls nearly 70 percent of the Mexican mobile phone market and 80 percent of fixed-line phones, has taken aim at other markets, recently announcing plans to buy a stake of up to 28 percent in Dutch telecoms firm KPN. He has also bought 4.1 percent of Telekom Austria [ID:nL5E8H56IG]
Von Hauske, who drove America Movil’s Latin American expansion, said the firm is also expanding its video streaming offer, currently available in Colombia, Argentina and Chile. “The idea is to tap all markets” this year, Von Hauske said.
The executive said America Movil plans to remain a pure content distributor. Its acquisition of DLA in 2011 gave it access to movies, TV series and music for its growing base of smartphone, tablet and pay TV customers. [ID:nN1E79G0GL]
Gaming is another America Movil focus. After launching 600 titles in April to some 8 million users of broadband in Mexico, the company wants to reach the rest of the region. [ID:nL2E8FID5A]
“We are just about to enter Colombia ... from there, to all the other countries with broadband services,” Von Hauske said.
Mexico, the cornerstone of Slim’s empire, is in the middle of a major overhaul of its telecoms network. Its old copper wires, which extend across the country, are being replaced with more efficient fiber optic cable.
Telmex, the fixed-line phone and Internet arm of America Movil, is deploying miles and miles of fiber optic that will bring faster broadband access to homes, mostly in big cities.
Rivals like SKY, the direct-to-home satellite television unit of Mexico’s leading broadcaster Televisa (TLVACPO.MX), is preparing to launch its own fiber-based broadband service in Mexico City this year. [ID:nL2E8FK6QA]
Televisa’s other unit, Cablevision (CABLECPO.MX), the leading provider of cable services in Mexico, already has broadband.
To take on Slim over telecoms, Televisa joined forces last year with broadcasting rival TV Azteca (AZTECACPO.MX), which has its own fiber optic service, Totalplay, in the capital.
Televisa’s $1.6 billion bid for TV Azteca’s sister cellphone company Iusacell, which was blocked by the authorities, is under review by competition watchdog Cofeco and a final ruling is expected this week.
Von Hauske, who is also chief executive of Telmex Internacional, a unit of Slim’s fixed-line giant Telmex, said the company would keep its eyes open for when Mexico auctions more electromagnetic spectrum to deliver new applications to smartphones and tablets.
Slim plans to launch fourth-generation Long-Term Evolution, or LTE - a standard for wireless communication of high-speed data - in some cities in Mexico and Puerto Rico this year. [ID:nL2E8FJATX]
Lower spectrum, like that in the 700 MHz band, usually works best for LTE, which allows much faster downloads of content at speeds of at least 20 Mbps. That is 10 times faster than Mexico’s current average broadband speed.
(Reporting by Cyntia Barrera Diaz; editing by Matthew Lewis)
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