Satellite broadcaster Star TV, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, has acquired a 26% holding in Indian cable TV operator Hathway Cable & Datacom.

The deal signals an escalation in India’s already thriving market for in-home entertainment services via high-speed data links. The Star investment will enable Hathway to upgrade its cable network – said to be India’s second largest – to provide consumers with advanced digital services including internet access.

India, which has one of Asia’s lowest web penetration rates (estimated at only 1 million), is seen by Star chairman James Murdoch as a mouth-watering opportunity: "We think that there's a clear demand for information products and services. Taking away the need to buy an expensive computer is something that's going to be very attractive to the market," he said.

The new services, due for launch in the first half of 2001, will include pay-per-view programs, interactive sports, and home shopping, delivered via a set-top box.

No information about the price for Star's stake was forthcoming.

News source: Wall Street Journal