Rupert Murdoch, the Australian newspaper publisher, has made an $8 million bid to acquire Europe's first satellite "superstation," which would give him a major television stake on three continents.
Murdoch's News Co. is seeking control of 65 percent of Satellite Television P.L.C., a London-based company that uses Europe's Orbital Test Satellite to distribute two hours of daily commercial programming to some 400,000 cable television homes throughout the continent. Satellite Television will move to another satellite that is scheduled for launch later this year.
"We always knew we would need another source of money," said a Satellite Television official, "and the board is intrigued with his track record. There are those who think that 35 percent of Mr. Murdoch's vision is worth more than 100 percent of someone else's."
Satellite Television board has until June to accept or reject the Murdoch offer. The company has managed to position itself as the first and major distributor of television programming to Europe's growing cable systems. Several observers predict that a third of Europe's television households will be cable subscribers by the end of the '80s.
The service, which numbers Schweppes and Polaroid among its advertisers, has been broadcasting for slightly more than a year and offers such fare as specials on Nobel Prize winners and reruns of "Charlie's Angels."
Sources inside both Satellite Television and the News Co. said Murdoch will put an additional $25 million to $35 million into the company to acquire new programming and increase its broadcast time to six hours a day.
Murdoch's move comes on the heels of his announcement to launch a direct broadcast satellite service in the United States before the end of this year. Murdoch recently signed a six-year $75 million agreement to acquire five satellite transponders, or switches, from McLean, Va.-based Satellite Business Systems. He also has extensive broadcast interests in Australia.
Satellite Television poses unique broadcasting problems inasmuch as regulators in Europe strictly control programming spillover across national borders. However, Murdoch is reportedly negotiating with both European media companies and their governments for rights to cable systems access.
"We have to" pay attention to satellites and video communications, said Brian Horton, Murdoch's London-based director of development.