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Before yesterdayBroadband TV News: Satellite

Intelsat’s CFO Jacques Kerrest to retire

By Robert Briel

Intelsat announced that its CFO, Jacques Kerrest, plans to retire.

He will continue in his role through the spring until a successor is appointed to ensure a smooth transition of duties.

Since joining Intelsat in February 2016, Kerrest played an instrumental role in successfully completing $15.5 billion in debt and equity transactions, achieving an improved capital structure for the company.

“On behalf of the company and the management team, I’d like to thank Jacques for his leadership and many contributions during his tenure,” said Stephen Spengler, Chief Executive Officer.

“Jacques’ expertise in capital markets and strategic engagement with debt and equity investors enhanced Intelsat’s position as a respected issuer. One result of his contributions, our improved capital structure, provides us the flexibility that positions us to execute our business strategies. We wish Jacques well as he pursues his personal goals during his well-earned retirement.”

The company is retaining an executive search firm to lead the search for his replacement.

HD Austria adds four pay-TV channels

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Austrian DTH satellite platform HD Austria offers its customers four new channels: BonGusto, Heimatkanal, Playboy TV and Romance TV.

The additions are part of the hybrid offering, which reaches TV screens through the internet. The channels can be received via the HD Austria Kombi package with the HD Austria satellite receiver (MZ-101) or recorder (MP-201), the HD Austria Now app for smart TV sets, smartphones, tablets and laptops or the web player via the internet.

The new channels appear automatically in the channel list, a search is not necessary.

My-HD DTH extends SPI International deal

By Robert Briel

My-HD-Pay TV platform in the MENA region will carry SPI International’s channels for another three years.

“SPI International and My-HD have been working together for three years and it is my pleasure to announce that we have renewed our channel distribution partnership in the MENA region until 2022,” said Murat Muratoglu (pictured), Head of Distribution for Middle East, Ex-Yugo, Baltic States, Bulgaria, Greece, India, Turkey, CIS Countries, APAC at SPI International.

Karam Hamad, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of My-HD added “this great partnership with SPI International has proven itself beneficial to My-HD subscribers. It is a privilege to have FilmBox, DocuBox, Fast&FunBox, FightBox and Gametoon on the My-HD platform. We are confident that the evolving programming of the channels will reward our multi-cultural viewers across the Middle East and North Africa with an even better Pay TV viewing experience.”

BFBS to reach UK troops in remote regions via SES

By Robert Briel

The British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) has signed a new multi-year agreement with SES satellites.

As a result greater numbers of British forces and their families stationed abroad, including Royal Navy ships at sea, will receive a range of British TV and radio programming.

The increased capacity will enable BFBS to continue to deliver British entertainment and sporting content across the globe, from Canada in the north-west and Falkland Islands in the south, across Europe and Africa and all the way to Brunei in the Far East. The service is an important part of making British forces and their families feel a little closer to home during deployments.

BFBS’s mix of news, sport and entertainment programming will be delivered via SES’s NSS-12 and SES-6 satellites. BFBS operates as part of SSVC (Services Sound and Vision Corporation), a not-for-profit charity, under a ten-year contract with the UK Ministry of Defence to supply welfare by radio and TV worldwide.

“Bringing the best of British TV and Radio to our armed services around the world has an incredibly positive impact on their morale and welfare, especially when they are separated from loved ones and home life for months on end,” said Ryan Lambert, CTO, BFBS.

“It’s great that we can now deliver more content and more channels than ever before to our forces posted around the globe via SES.”

“Our partnership with SSVC spans many years,” said Ferdinand Kayser, CEO of SES Video.

“This newest agreement extends our ability to improve the lives of British Forces by bringing them more of the creature comforts of home – wherever they are stationed, including ships in the South China Sea and Eastern Pacific. We feel privileged that we can help to improve the health and well-being of service personnel and their families through the unmatched reach and reliability of our global fleet, together with the unbeatable radio and television content available from BFBS.”

DMAX UK to drop encryption, replaces Travel Channel

By Robert Briel

Discovery is launching DMAX as a free to air channel in the UK from January 16, replacing The Travel Channel.

“We’re incredibly excited to launch DMAX on free to air in the UK as a destination for male audiences who want to live life to the max and indulge their passions in a fun environment created especially for them,” said Simon Downing, SVP, Head of Factual and Sport.

“Its launch strengthens and diversifies our free to air portfolio in the UK, allowing us to engage more audiences than ever before with compelling real-life entertainment.”

DMAX replaces Discovery’s Travel Channel on free to air, which remains on pay TV. It is the latest addition to Discovery’s free to air portfolio in the UK, which includes Discovery’s male skewing channel Quest which launched in 2009 and is now the 13th biggest channel for men in the UK. As well as female skewing channels Food Network and Quest Red, which launched in 2017.

The UK launch follows a decade of investment in DMAX as a free to air channel across EMEA by Discovery. It is available free to air in Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Spain. DMAX has been operated by Discovery in the UK as a pay-TV channel since 2008.

NIOTE – DMAX launches January 16 on Freeview 42 and Freesat 150 and is available on Sky 178 and Virgin 213.

CIS HD first for Globecast

By Chris Dziadul

Globecast has been selected by the National State TV and Radio Company of the Republic of Belarus to launch an HD version of its international satellite channel Belarus 24.

In a release, Globecast says that the channel, distributed as a FTA service on Eutelsat’s Hotbird, made its debut at the beginning of last month, with the SD version continued until January 1, 2019. The significance is that the launch on Hotbird is the first of a HD channel from a CIS country.

As previously reported by Broadband TV News, plans by the Belarusian broadcaster to switch its channels to HD were first announced last year.

Commenting on the development, Aleksandr Martynenko, general director at Belarus 24, said: “We have a high trust relationship with Globecast, much like they do with Eutelsat. Given the success and reach of Belarus 24 in SD since 2005, we felt it was time for us to deliver this important content in HD so that we can bring a significantly enhanced viewing experience to our customers. We are very happy with our choice of Globecast and Eutelsat as the project has gone exceptionally smoothly”.

Biliana Pumpalovic, general director at Globecast Moscow, added: “Belarus 24 has been an important customer of ours for almost a decade, and we feel privileged that they came to us with this key upgrade in their distribution development. We’ve worked closely with them, both technically and commercially, to bring the HD version of Belarus 24 to millions of viewers across Europe”.

ARD to offer full TV package in HD on Astra

By JΓΆrn Krieger

German public broadcaster ARD will transmit its complete TV channel portfolio in HD quality for DTH satellite households via Astra (19.2° East) from January 7, 2019.

The last two missing channels ARD-alpha HD and Radio Bremen TV HD will be added to the line-up on 10.00 CET. The two channels were previously only offered on SD resolution.

Initially, the signals will be up-converted to HD resolution. From February 2019, regional channel Radio Bremen TV will be available in native HD quality; educational channel ARD-alpha is to follow during the course of the year.

The two new HD channels will be broadcast unencrypted on transponder 39 (11.053 GHz H, SR 22,000, FEC 2/3). For reception, viewers are recommended to perform a channel search on their TV set or set-top box.

ARD-alpha HD and Radio Bremen TV HD are also available to cable operators for carriage. The two largest cable companies Vodafone and Unitymedia will distribute both channels from the end of January 2019.

HDTV reception is widespread among German viewers: According to the Digitisation Report 2018, around 31 million households have an HD-capable TV set. Of the 17.4 million DTH satellite households, around 80% own an HD TV set.

M7 Group to buy UPC DTH operations

By Robert Briel

M7 Group has reached an agreement to buy the DTH satellite TV operations from Liberty Global currently serving four Central and Eastern European markets.

Liberty Global will sell its DTH operations for a total enterprise value of approximately €180 million ($205 million) on a U.S. GAAP basis, subject to customary debt and working capital adjustments at completion.

Closing of the transaction is subject to regulatory approval, which is expected in the first half of 2019. Liberty Global said the proceeds from the sale are expected to be used for general corporate purposes.

Currently the Liberty Global DTH business serves about 800,000 customers in Hungary under the brand UPC Direct, in the Czech Republic and Slovakia under the brand freeSAT, and in Romania under the brand FocusSat. This acquisition will enable M7 Group to gain further scale and increase its top line by circa 30% post transaction.

“This is a very logical acquisition for us, allowing us to consolidate the satellite TV activities of Skylink in the Czech and Slovak markets, while further diversifying our European footprint into two new markets,” said Hans Troelstra, CEO of M7 Group.

“In addition, we will be able to roll out our hybrid satellite and OTT TV platform in those two new markets. In our existing markets the OTT platform is already used by about 15-20% of the base.”

Broadband TV News notes that Liberty Global’s DTH operations in the region date back to 2000. The company is currently in the process of selling its UPC cable assets in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania to Vodafone and following this transaction its only remaining ones will be in Poland and Slovakia. Up until now, M7 Group’s only presence in the region has been through the Skylink operation in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

SES places €400m Multi-Tranche Schuldschein loan

By Robert Briel

SES S.A has completed the syndication of Schuldschein Loans for a total amount of €400 million.

The new loan comprises a €150 million 5.5-year floating tranche at Euribor 6 months plus 0.80% and a €250 million 7-year fixed rate tranche with a coupon of 1.71%. SES is rated Baa2/BBB- (both with stable outlook).

The Schuldschein loan was upsized from the initially marketed size and was placed with several European and Asian institutions. The proceeds will support SES’ general corporate purposes and the refinancing of existing debt maturities which include a $500 million 144A bond with a coupon of 2.5% and a final maturity date of 25 March 2019.

Andrew Browne, CFO of SES, commented: “We are pleased to have secured this financing at very attractive terms and expanding our investor base while extending our debt maturity profile, where we now have no further senior debt maturities to be financed until early 2020.”

BNP Paribas, ING Bank, Landesbank Baden-Württemberg and Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen acted as joint arrangers of this Schuldschein transaction.

BeIN Media Group moves from Nilesat to Eutelsat

By Robert Briel

The BeIN Media Group is migrating its transponder capacity from Nilesat over to Eutelsat 8 degrees West.

“Starting from December 15 until December 31, beIN subscribers can watch content on all the available frequencies. After the 31st of December, subscribers will need to ensure their set top boxes are reconfigured to avoid any interruptions,” the broadcaster said in a statement to its subscribers.

The majority of set top boxes will be reconfigured automatically.

“The switch of satellites provides an increase in platform security and control, and improved resilience overall. These efforts were made to ensure the BeIN Media Group can continue to provide its viewers and fans with its unrivalled library of entertainment, live sport action and major international events in the highest standards available across all its platforms,” the statement added.

TLC to launch Austrian window

By JΓΆrn Krieger

From January 1, 2019, women’s channel TLC will offer an advertising window for viewers in Austria.

As with sister channel DMAX, operating company Discovery has decided to cooperate with Goldbach’s Vienna-based team to sell the advertising slots.

“We are delighted to be able to offer our advertising customers the female counterpart to DMAX with TLC,” said Goldbach Austria’s managing director Josef Almer. Both channels have a clear profile, offering advertisers a distinct environment, he added.

TLC Austria will be available from January 1, 2019 via Astra (19.2° East) on transponder 87 (12.148 GHz H, SR 27,500, FEC 3/4). The free-to-air channel is also distributed on Austrian cable networks and on Austrian DVB-T2 platform simpliTV.

Successful Ariane launch for GSAT-11

By Robert Briel

Arianespace’s 10th mission of 2018 orbited satellite payloads today for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI).

Designated Flight VA246 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system, it delivered the ISRO GSAT-11 relay platform for Ku- and Ka-band communications, along with KARI’s GEO-KOMPSAT-2A – which is to provide meteorological and space weather monitoring data.

“I want to express my deepest gratitude to two very special partners since the beginning of their space ambitions: ISRO and KARI,” said Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël in post-launch comments from the Spaceport.

Israël noted that GSAT-11 was the 22nd ISRO satellite orbited by Arianespace and Ariane-series launchers, tracing the relationship back to India’s APPLE small experimental communications spacecraft, which had a liftoff mass of 670-kg. and was lofted in 1981 by an Ariane 1 version. On today’s Ariane 5 mission, GSAT-11 weighed in at 5,854.6 kg. – the largest and heaviest satellite ever built by the Indian space agency.

Deployed first during Ariane 5’s 33-minute mission to geostationary transfer orbit, GSAT-11 will be positioned at 74 deg. East, providing communications services in Ku- and Ka-bands in both forward and return links. The satellite was designed and manufactured by ISRO, with its multi-spot beam coverage over the Indian mainland and nearby islands to bring significant advantages to users when compared with existing India’s INSAT/GSAT satellite systems. GSAT-11’s design lifetime is more than 15 years.

GEO-KOMPSAT-2A was carried in Ariane 5’s lower payload position and released second in the sequence for Flight VA246. Developed by KARI at its South Korean facility in Daejeon, this 3,507.2-kg. satellite will deliver meteorological and space weather monitoring from an orbital position of 128.2 degrees East as part of a Korean government national programme.

DirecTV to abandon satellite in favour of OTT

By Robert Briel

DirecTV owner AT&T says it’s done buying satellites, marking a switch to OTT delivery.

“We’ve launched our last satellite,” John Donovan, CEO of AT&T Communications, said during a presentation to analysts, reports Space News.

He and other AT&T executives said the rampant growth of internet-delivered video services that bypass satellite and cable networks is so significant that it is now the company’s future.

“We are seeing shifts in viewing from traditional TV viewing — cable, satellite — to on-demand viewing, and streaming on-demand viewing,” said Randall Stephenson chairman and CEO of AT&T Inc.

Those shifts, he said, have accelerated an overhaul of business models among media companies that are “recognising that they no longer have the luxury to rely exclusively on wholesale distribution of their content to customers going through satellite and cable companies.”

Broadband TV Views. Television viewing is shifting from linear to on-demand – slowly, but surely. This is bad news for satellite operators, where around 50% of turnover is coming from video delivery services. Viewers are demanding more personalised and on-demand services, which satellites can’t deliver. Add to that the facts that broadband access is becoming more widespread and new delivery techniques such as 5G will reach more people.

Ariane 5 mission with GSAT-11 ready for launch

By Robert Briel

Arianespace’s Ariane 5 mission with GSAT-11 and GEO-KOMPSAT-2A is ready for liftoff.

The Ariane 5 for Arianespace’s 10th mission of 2018 is now in the launch zone at French Guiana.

This heavy-lift launcher was transferred from the Spaceport’s Final Assembly Building to the ELA-3 launch zone, enabling the final countdown to begin for its late afternoon departure on December 4 during a 1-hour, 16-minute launch window that opens at 5:37 p.m. local time in French Guiana.

Riding in the upper payload position for the 33-minute mission to geostationary transfer orbit is GSAT-11 (pictured), built by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). With a liftoff mass set at 5,854.5 kg., it is ISRO’s largest and heaviest communication satellite ever, configured on the space agency’s next-generation I-6K satellite bus. It will be positioned at 74 deg. East after deployment by Ariane 5, providing communications services in Ku- and Ka-bands in both forward and return links.

Ariane 5’s lower passenger is the 3,507.2-kg. GEO-KOMPSAT-2A, which is designed for meteorological and space weather monitoring missions as part of a Korean government national program. Produced by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) at its facility in Daejeon, South-Korea – and to be stationed at the 128.2 deg. East orbital location – GEO-KOMPSAT-2A will be the seventh satellite launched by Arianespace for South Korea.

Designated Flight VA246, the upcoming mission is the 246th launch of an Ariane family vehicle and Arianespace’s sixth in 2018 using the workhorse Ariane 5. The heavyweight launcher will deliver a lift performance of more than 10,200 kg., which includes the mass of its two satellite passengers as well as the Ariane 5’s dual-payload deployment system and integration hardware.

Insight UHD launches on M7’s Diveo platform

By JΓΆrn Krieger

With Insight UHD, German DTH satellite platform Diveo has added the first Ultra HD channel to its line-up on Astra (19.2° East).

The channel is available to all customers regardless of the TV package they subscribe to. The precondition for reception is an Ultra HD TV set with a satellite tuner and the Diveo CI+ module. The Diveo set-top-box is not suitable for Ultra HD/4K.

Diveo’s operating company M7 Group recently expanded its carriage agreement with Insight TV enabling it to make the channel available to Diveo customers.

In addition to the Ultra HD version, Insight TV is also offered in HD resolution by Diveo. Further additions to the portfolio are six pay-TV channels such as VH1 and VH1 Classic as well as several MTV channels.

NHK Japan to launch the world’s first 8K channel

By Robert Briel

NHK will launch two new channels in December, including the world’s first 8K channel, NHK BS4K and NHK BS8K.

“NHK BBS4K will be an entry point channel for ultra-high-definition television, with image quality at a different level to what has been available until now, accessible by a wide range of viewers. On the other hand, BS8K will boast the highest quality images and sound in the world, becoming a flagship channel for NHK and delivering a completely new and astounding visual experience. BS4K will broadcast from 6am until midnight, 18 hours a day, showing only programmes that have been made in 4K,” said Yukinori Kida, Executive Director of Broadcasting at NHK.

The channel was first announced at the MIPCOM in Cannes in October 2017.

BS8K will broadcast for approximately twelve hours every day, from 10 am to 10.10 pm. “For 8K, the strategy will be for high quality programmes to be rigorously selected and carefully produced. The time slots will not be set for particular genres, but scheduling will depend on the content of individual programmes. The highlight of BS8K will be Golden Time (primetime) on Sunday. Every week on Sunday evening from 7 o’clock, a new programme selected from a variety of genres will be presented,” according to Yukinori Kida.

“At different times on weekdays, for those who missed the Sunday programme, as well as those who want to watch it again, it is scheduled to be rebroadcast in a ‘selection’ slot. Because 8K is at the moment based around watching at the time of broadcast, we plan to increase the number of chances to watch through rebroadcasts. Firstly, in the field of music Sekai Sandai Orchestra no Hibiki (The Sound of the World’s Three Great Orchestras) will present moving performances by the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Royal Concertgebouw in 22.2 channel immersive sound that will create the feeling of really being there. In addition, a broadcast of complete performances of all five troupes from the leading Japanese theater group the Takarazuka Revue will be broadcast.

“In terms of art programmes, an international co-production with France Louvre Bijutsukan Bi no Dendo no 400-nen (The Louvre Museum – 400 Years of the Palace of Beauty), a four-part series, is being made and will be broadcast, as well as programmes about the works of painters Hokusai and Ito Jakuchu. A series on the golden treasures of Tutankhamun of Egypt, said to be the greatest collection of its kind in the world, is also scheduled to be broadcast.”

New OTT service for Cosmote

By Chris Dziadul

Greece’s Cosmote TV is planning to launch a new OTT service named Cosmote Sports Daily Pass.

According to Digital TV Info, it will, as its name suggests, give customers 24-hour access to all of Cosmote TV’s sports channels. The activation process will be through the Cosmote TV GO application, with the service being available on any fixed or mobile network.

Cosmote Sports Daily Pass is expected to cost €10 for 24 hours access and will join Cosmote TV’s four other OTT services.

These are Cosmote TV Go sports Pack, costing €25 a month; Cosmote TV GO Movie Pack, €10 a month; Cosmote TV GO Documentaries Pack, €5 a month; and Cosmote TV GO Kids Pack, €3 a month.

Antik Telekom trials linear channels

By Chris Dziadul

Antik Telecom has begun testing three linear TV channels on Spacecom’s Amos 7.

In a statement provided to Broadband TV News, the Kosice-based company says that the service is included on the CEE beam, which covers most of the region, using one of Amos’s transponders (F:12297, H, SR: 45000).

It adds that the test channels are Fashion One 4K in the HEVC format and the Slovak national commercial services Joj HD and Wau SD.

The tests will last until November 30 and can be prolonged on evaluation.

Insight TV UHD/HD to launch on M7’s Diveo platform

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Insight TV has renewed its partnership with M7 Group, expanding the carriage agreement to include German DTH subscribers.

The move will see Insight TV’s UHD and HD channels offered to customers of M7’s German DTH platform Diveo with fully localised feeds, in addition to the continued availability through the platform operator’s other satellite TV services including CanalDigitaal (The Netherlands), TV Vlaanderen and TéléSAT (Belgium), Skylink (Czech Republic and Slovakia) and HD Austria/AustriaSat (Austria).

Insight TV’s 4K UHD and HD channel originally launched on M7 platforms in spring 2017.

“We are committed to working with broadcasters like Insight TV to continuously enhance viewing experiences for our subscribers,” said Bill Wijdeveld, Vice-President Business Development at M7 Group. “We look forward to launching a host of exciting new Insight TV shows in 2019, which are currently in production and now also available to subscribers of our German Diveo platform.”

Deluxe Music HD joins Freenet TV on Astra

By JΓΆrn Krieger

German music channel Deluxe Music HD is now available on DTH satellite platform Freenet TV via Astra (19.2° East).

Customers can watch the channel at no extra cost. The package now comprises a total of 23 channels. To get Deluxe Music HD on the TV set, viewers have to perform a channel search on their reception device.

Customers of the DTT version of Freenet TV can also receive Deluxe Music. However, the channel is not transmitted terrestrially but via the internet through hybrid service Freenet TV Connect.

Deluxe Music HD has been part of competing DTH platform HD+ since December 2012. It is also part of M7 Group’s Diveo platform.