A THREATENED boycott of STAR TV by a group of Taiwanese cable television operators is overshadowing this week's launch of its movie channel in Taipei. The National Cable Broadcasting Union last week voted to boycott STAR TV's existing five channels and STAR Movies, which will be launched on Wednesday, because of a row over distribution rights. Reports in Taiwanese newspapers quoted executives of one cable company, United 52, as saying STAR TV ''lacked sincerity'' and was trying to squeeze more money for the right to carry STAR Movies. However, there was confusion last night over whether another of the country's major cable companies, Channel Four Cable Communications, had signed a deal with STAR. At stake is the US$9.2 million (HK$71 million) agent's contract to exclusively distribute STAR TV's signal to other Taiwanese cable operators. There are about two million cable subscribers in Taiwan - all of them potential customers for whichever company secures the STAR movie channel franchise. However, if the boycott goes ahead STAR could lose up to 70 per cent of that audience. Demand for the Putonghua and English-language subscription channel is said to be high, and several companies were contesting for the potentially lucrative role of agent. STAR Movies is a critical new venture for the Hong Kong-based satellite television company, as it is its first subscription service since the station went on air in 1991. Chairman Rupert Murdoch ordered the removal of the BBC World Service Television (WSTV) channel to accommodate STAR Movies. Worldwide, non-subscription-based satellite television stations have always been unprofitable because it is impossible for advertisers to gauge how many people are watching. STAR Movies is the loss-making station's first attempt to get a steady revenue stream from subscriptions. STAR TV spokesman Douglas Gautier admitted that some cable stations had refused to take the movie channel, but he refused to say how many. ''We are about to announce a deal with a major cable TV distributor. We are moving ahead in Taiwan, which is a major market for us, and we are confident that our business will continue to grow there; it is a very good market,'' he said. Mr Gautier blamed the ''very competitive'' Taiwanese cable television market for the threatened boycott. No-one was available from either Channel Four Cable Communications or STAR TV last night to confirm whether or not a deal had been signed. Meanwhile, WSTV will disappear from Hong Kong screens at 11.59 tonight and a 25-minute Putonghua and English promotional film for STAR Movies, which will be repeated non-stop until Wednesday, will take its place. WSTV spokesman Phil Johnstone said in London that technicians would effectively pull the plug on the BBC picture in the territory, China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan. The service would continue to be seen on the southern half of STAR TV's broadcast area, which includes India, Pakistan and the Middle East, and the signal would still be relayed from Hong Kong. Hong Kong viewers will only be able to watch the movie channel until May 1, the day STAR TV scrambles the signal, so that it can only be seen with the aid of a decoder. As the Sunday Morning Post revealed last week, Wharf's Cable TV executives are negotiating with STAR about running STAR Movies as a premium service in addition to their basic eight-channel package. Cable TV is also talking to the BBC about airing WSTV.