African broadcaster Multichoice Africa, satellite operator Eutelsat and Telefonica de Espana have penned an agreement to launch a new digital satellite television platform to serve Sub-Saharan Africa.

Called the first of its kind for the region, the new platform will have capacity for some 40 channels which can be received on even small TV receptors. Multichoice Africa - which boasts platforms in Europe, Asia and Africa - will provide the content for the new platform, while Eutelsat and Telefonica de Espana will provide technical services. It is unlikely that Telefonica will offer content to the new platform from its multiple production and TV interests, which include Spanish digital satellite platform Via Digital.

Among the channels Multichoice brings to the new platform through extended agreements already in place in other regions are: Hallmark, BBC Prime, Discovery, ESPN, National Geographic, Carlton Food Network, CNN, CNBC, SABC Africa, TV Globo Internacional, SIC, RTP Internacional and MTV.

The platform, dubbed Multichoice, is expected to begin test broadcasts in early July and commercial services later the same month. The three-way accord was signed in effect for 14 years.

Based in Paris, Eutelsat is Europe's leading satellite operator. Telefonica de Espana is the basic telephone subsidiary of Spanish telecoms and media giant Telefonica.