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Before yesterdayBroadband TV News: Satellite

SES deploys DataMiner platform

By Chris Dziadul

SES has deployed the AI-powered DataMiner NMS/OSS platform from Skyline Communications.

DataMiner features capabilities that are required in the satellite industry, such as managing various layers of the infrastructure, including the RF up- and downlinks, comprehensive video services channel management with fully redundant workflows, and related elements such as ground station tracking and satellite telemetry data.

Commenting on the deployment, Didier Schepens, sales manager at Skyline Communications, said: “SES was looking for a solution that unlocks the highest level of proactiveness and automation in a satellite broadcast network. That’s not a luxury anymore, as the communications landscape is evolving and customers’ expectations are growing.

“As expected, our team delivered on the promise: SES can now enjoy a state-of-the-art management platform that is technology and vendor independent, future proof and scalable, allowing for it to be deployed in various locations.”

Travelxp 4k to expand in German-speaking markets

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Travelxp 4k is in discussions with further platform operators in Germany following the expiration of its contract with DTH satellite platform HD+.

“Our distribution in German-speaking markets continues and you shall hear about some more deals going forward as we were restricted with HD+ exclusivity,” Sumant Bahl, managing director Europe & Africa of Travelxp, told Broadband TV News.

“Our relationship with Astra 19.2° East was exclusively for HD+ and it was up to HD+ to keep up the faith in the 4K ecosystem,” said Bahl. “As a programme provider we are heavily investing in producing world class 4K HDR content and its localisation in each country and continue to do so. Our faith in the 4K HDR ecosystem is very much intact and we continue investing and expanding our footprint across the globe.”

“In Europe we service the platforms through the most widely accepted satellite position Hotbird where our partnership with Eutelsat in widespread adoption of 4K HDR is supported by them along with our investments in content,” said Bahl.

Besides HD+, which will terminate distribution of Travelxp 4k on April 1, 2020, the Ultra HD channel is available in Germany on Deutsche Telekom’s TV platform MagentaTV and within the telco’s TV package for the housing industry.

Travelxp 4k to leave Astra

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Travelxp 4k will cease its distribution on the Astra satellite system (19.2 degrees East) in Europe on April 1, 2020.

The Ultra HD (UHD) channel launched on Astra in December 2017, targeting the customers of German DTH platform HD+.

An HD+ spokesman confirmed to German industry magazine InfoDigital that Travelxp 4k decided to terminate the Astra distribution, but stressed that HD+ would continue to drive UHD through several new content propositions.

The pay-TV channel, which offers a 24-hour schedule with UHD programmes in HDR comprising, for example, documentaries about different cultures and exotic locations, continues to be available across Europe on Eutelsat’s Hotbird satellite system (13° East).

Travelxp 4k did not comment on the situation when contacted by Broadband TV News.

ARD’s regional TV channels to drop SD satellite distribution in 2021

By JΓΆrn Krieger

The regional affiliates of German public broadcaster ARD will terminate the satellite distribution of their TV channels in SD resolution on Astra (19.2° East) in January 2021.

This was confirmed by Wolfgang Wagner (pictured), director of production and technology at WDR and currently also chairman of the production and technology commission of ARD and ZDF, in an interview with German industry magazine InfoDigital.

Currently, this affects the TV channels of all regional ARD affiliates with the exception of MDR, where the decision-making process is still ongoing, Wagner explained.

In February 2020, ARD announced that it will cease satellite broadcasting of its jointly operated channels in SD resolution on Astra in January 2021: Das Erste, tagesschau24, ONE and ARD-alpha.

European cultural channel ARTE will follow suit. The affected channels will then only be available in HD quality via Astra.

The date for the SD switch-off is January 12, 2021, according to Wagner.

Dan Zajicek to head Spacecom

By Chris Dziadul

Dan Zajicek has been appointed the CEO of Spacecom, effective April 1.

Itzik Shnaiberg, who has served as Acting CEO since January 1, 2020, will return to his deputy CEO position at that time.

Zajicek comes to Spacecom from Satcom Systems, owner of Gilat Satcom, where he served as CEO from 2012, after fulfilling senior management positions in the international satellite services industry. At Bezeq International he served as VP responsible for Regulatory Affairs, International Business Development and HR as well as VP of its Business Development unit and CFO.

Zajicek also served as senior deputy DG of Israel’s Communications Ministry and in the National Budget Unit of Israel’s Finance Ministry.

Commenting on his appointment, he said: “I am very excited to join Spacecom. With four satellites serving communities in four different regions, and with three of those satellites servicing Africa, Spacecom is moving forward in meeting its long-term business goals. We have a bright future in our fast-moving business environment, and I will bring our competitive advantages to the fore and keep the company advancing into growing markets”.

Tiphaine Louradour to head ILS

By Chris Dziadul

Tiphaine Louradour has been appointed the new president of ILS International Launch Services.

She has joined the company with over two decades of Space Industry and management experience, most recently as president of global commercial sales at United Launch Alliance (ULA).

Prior to this, she held a number of positions of increasing responsibility in finance, risk management, strategy, commercial sales and marketing and also gained international business experience while serving as a consultant to international consulting firms in the US and Europe.

ILS is owned by JSC Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre and currently markets the Proton launch vehicle, with the new Angara launch vehicle on the horizon. It is based in Reston, VA, near Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, JSC Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre has its headquarters in Fili, Moscow.

New Ukrainian satellite channels set to launch

By Chris Dziadul

The Ukrainian media group StarLightMedia plans to launch an unencrypted international satellite TV channel by March 16.

Quoting the company’s press service, Telekritika reports that the channel will carry content produced by its current proprietary channels ICTV, STB and New Channel.

It adds that on March 3 StarLightMedia applied to the National Council for a licence to operate the channel.

The channel is a response to a request from the Ukrainian president, who StarLightMedia and the three other leading media groups met late last month to discuss calls for a moratorium on the encryption of satellite TV channels that took place in January.

The four groups agreed to launch unencrypted satellite versions of their national TV channels and thereby make them available again to Ukrainian citizens by March 16.

1+1, one of the groups, began testing an unencrypted version of its international channel on SES’s Astra 4A satellite on March 1.

Ukraine finds sat TV solution

By Chris Dziadul

Media Group Ukraine (MGU) has issued a statement following a meeting of media group leaders with the country’s president Volodymyr Zelensky.

In it they discussed, as previously reported by Broadband TV News, calls for a moratorium on the encryption of satellite TV channels that took place at the end of January.

In the statement, MGU says it welcomes “the strategic solution developed during the constructive dialogue. Measures coordinated with industry representatives will solve the problem of access of Ukrainians to the content of national TV channels.

“The Xtra TV satellite operator, which is part of MGU, has already been tasked with developing a social package with a minimum subscription fee for socially disadvantaged groups.

“The head of state agreed with the representatives of media groups that by March 16, 2020, four unencrypted international versions of national TV channels will be launched. That is, each media group will make available to Ukrainian viewers for two years an international version of one of its TV channels, thus making television accessible to viewers throughout Ukraine, including the occupied ones, and the transition to a paid viewing model will be smooth and comfortable for TV audiences.

“MGU launched the unencrypted national news channel Ukraine 24 in 2019, which is available for viewing via HotBird, Astra and Eutelsat 9B satellites not only in Ukraine but also in Europe and North America”.

It concludes by saying: “We, MGU, believe that strategic protection of the country’s information security requires, first and foremost, the access of Ukrainian viewers to verified and up-to-date information about events in the country”.

waipu.tv reaches over 400,000 customers / Price increase for Freenet TV

By JΓΆrn Krieger

German internet TV platform waipu.tv reached around 408,300 paying customers at the end of 2019.

This means that the number of customers grew more strongly last year (+156,500) than in 2018 (+149,500), as parent company Freenet reports its 2019 financial figures.

The original annual target of more than 350,000 paying customers had already been reached by waipu.tv in August 2019.

At the end of 2019, waipu.tv had a total of 2.28 million registered customers. At the end of 2018, this figure was just 1.26 million.

TV platform Freenet TV increased the number of revenue-generating users by around 6,900 to 1.021 million customers in the course of the year. Following the closure of its DTH satellite service on Astra (19.2° East) due to insufficient demand, the offer is now again only marketed via DVB-T2.

At the end of Q2 2020 – probably in May – Freenet plans to modestly increase the subscription price of Freenet TV, as indicated in the management presentation of the 2019 results. In addition, bundled offers of Freenet TV and waipu.tv are planned.

For waipu.tv, Freenet expects “solid growth” in 2020, while the customer figure of Freenet TV is expected to remain “stable”. However, this does not take into account the effects of the possible subscription price increase.

Freesat launches third generation 4K TV boxes

By Julian Clover

Freesat has announced the launch of a third generation of set-top boxes.

The range includes three new recordable boxes and a zapper device. They’ll be available from Amazon from the end of February and from Currys PC World shortly afterwards.

They’ve been developed in partnership with Commscope, the former ARRIS.

In addition to the free-to-air satellite platforms 180 TV channels (including over 20 in HD), multiple radio channels and a wide range of On Demand players, including BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub, as well as optional pay streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube.

The boxes are 4K ready, enabling a UHD viewing experience where such content is available incorporating a range of features including a 7-day backwards guide. Content from up to 4 channels can be recorded at any one time. The 2TB box can store up to 1,000 hours of SD content.

Alistair Thom, Managing Director of Freesat said, “Our research has shown us time and again that customers appreciate the freedom of choice that our hybrid TV system offers and value the ability to curate their own viewing. Our new generation range of set top boxes allows them to do just that, with easy set-up, a huge range of viewing options and a fast, reliable service that is 4K ready. I’m confident that we’ve produced a platform that will grow and evolve in line with customers’ viewing habits.”

The 4K TV Box 2TB box costs £269.99, while the zapper is £124.99.

Vivacom partners with Magic Movies

By Chris Dziadul

The Bulgarian incumbent Vivacom has concluded an agreement with Magic Movies for uplink services on the Eutelsat 8W platform.

It comprises a complete solution including the signal contribution, encoding, encryption and uplink of Nina TV English and Nina TV French channels for African pay-TV platforms.

Nina is a TV 100% telenovela channel showcasing the best telenovelas from Africa, Brazil, and the rest of world.

Commenting on the agreement, Bernard Azria, Magic Movies CEO, said, “We are excited about our partnership with Vivacom as it will improve our reliability and coverage to a wider audience in African and Latin America markets. Vivacom is technology partner offering the best quality possible with highly professional services in uplink and monitoring”.

Vladimir Rangelov, senior manager broadcasting services, Vivacom, added: “We are delighted to partner with Nina TV and bring their channels to the pay-TV operators in Africa and new markets, and that they recognise our unrivalled ability to provide a high-quality service that helps them reach new viewers, expanding their customer base”.

ARD to drop SD satellite distribution in 2021 [UPDATE]

By JΓΆrn Krieger

German public broadcaster ARD will cease the satellite distribution of its TV channels in SD resolution on Astra (19.2° East) in January 2021.

The channels can then only be received in HD quality. Affected are Das Erste, tagesschau24, ONE and ARD-alpha. According to ARD, the shutdown will save the broadcaster considerable costs. In addition, the commission for the determination of the public TV and radio licence fee KEF has already announced that it will no longer provide funds for the SD satellite broadcasts.

Otherwise, ARD would have had to reallocate funds from other areas in order to continue SD distribution, which would then no longer have been available for the originally designated areas. Whether ARD’s regional channels and jointly operated public channels such as KI.KA, 3sat and Phoenix will follow suit or continue SD distribution is currently unclear. Notably, the SD switch-off decision only concerns satellite broadcasting, there are no changes on other distribution infrastructures.

Almost 80% of DTH satellite households in Germany already receive HDTV – and thus also the public broadcasters’ channels as they are unencrypted. However, the situation is different for commercial broadcasters, because the HD versions of their channels are encrypted and subject to a subscription fee. Just under 16% of DTH satellite households have decided to pay for reception of the advertising-financed free-TV channels in HD resolution. SD switch-off is therefore a long way off for the commercial broadcasters, otherwise there would be a risk of high losses in audience reach and thus a sharp decline in advertising revenues.

Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland recently extended its contract with Astra satellite operator SES for the unencrypted SD satellite distribution of its free-TV channels until 2024. Shortly afterwards, ProSiebenSat.1 also announced that it had signed a long-term contract with SES for the continuation of unencrypted SD distribution.

How difficult it is to convince viewers to pay for the HD versions of the commercial channels is shown by the withdrawal of M7 Group’s Diveo and Freenet TV Sat, offered by Media Broadcast. Both providers marketed RTL, Sat.1, ProSieben and other commercial channels in HD resolution to DTH satellite households in Germany. As it was the case before the two competitors entered the market, SES subsidiary HD+ is now once again the only platform offering the commercial free-TV channels in HD quality via satellite.

Update, February 13, 2020: ARTE has decided to join ARD and also to cease its SD distribution on Astra at the beginning of 2021. This was confirmed by Kemal Görgülü, Head of Technology at the German-French cultural channel, in an interview with German industry magazine InfoDigital. “We definitely do not see our future in the SD distribution of our signals any more and have already terminated this in France in October 2016,” said Görgülü. ZDF, on the other hand, is still hesitating. A ZDF spokeswoman told Broadband TV News that no decision has yet been made.

Intelsat considering Chapter 11 in C-band crisis

By Julian Clover

Intelsat is considering commencing Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings if US regulators don’t increase the amount of compensation being offer for surrendering part of its C-band (3.7GHz to 4.2GHz) spectrum.

Bloomberg is reporting the satellite company has hired bankruptcy experts Kirkland & Ellis LLP to prepare for a potential restructuring.

The source told Bloomberg the Chapter 11 filing would delay the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plan to auction of part of the C-band because assets belonging to Intelsat would be subject to court proceedings.

Intelsat is a part of the C-Band Alliance that has offered to run a private sale for the spectrum early this year. The regulator wants to release the spectrum for 5G services, the CBA says it wants to “facilitate safely and efficiently clearing and repurposing C-band spectrum”.

However, at a press conference last week FCC chairman Ajit Pai said the agency would continue with its plan for a public auction. Details of the plan are yet to be released, but a report from Reuters suggested compensation in the order of “low-single-digit billions” to move users to a different frequency range.

Contacted by Broadband TV News, Intelsat and the CBA declined to comment.

Freenet TV closes German DTH service on Astra

By JΓΆrn Krieger

German service provider Media Broadcast has ceased marketing its HDTV platform Freenet TV for DTH satellite households on Astra (19.2° East) on February 5, 2020.

The subscription package carrying the HD versions of commercial free-TV channels will only be offered terrestrially via DVB-T2 from now on, a Media Broadcast spokesman confirmed to German industry publication InfoDigital.

The demand remained “considerably below our expectations,” the spokesman explained the reason for the decision to close Freenet TV Sat. “Media Broadcast focuses its Freenet TV offer entirely on the successful DVB-T2 service with over one million customers and on internet reception.”

Existing Freenet TV satellite customers will be able to receive the channels via Astra without restrictions until the end of 2020. After that they can continue to use Freenet TV via DVB-T2 or switch to internet TV sister service waipu.tv. According to the spokesman, a new feature is that there will be bundled offers for Freenet TV via DTT and the company’s internet-based services in future.

Freenet TV Sat launched in March 2018, complementing the DTT service. Media Broadcast never published separate subscriber figures for the satellite service. In the quarterly financial reports of its listed parent company Freenet, the customer figures for the DTT and DTH versions were always combined.

Exact figures are still not being given, but the Media Broadcast spokesman makes no secret that the subscriber development has been disappointing for the company: “This much can be said: Around two years after the launch, only a marginal proportion of Freenet TV customers are using the offer via satellite, while by far the largest proportion of customers are using Freenet TV exclusively via DTT – over a million”.

Following the closure M7 Group’s Diveo in November 2019, HD+ – a subsidiary of Astra satellite operator SES – remains the only provider to market the HD versions of the commercial free-TV channels to DTH households in Germany. The launch of competitors Diveo and Freenet TV Sat was linked to the hope that the difficult market would receive a boost. However, the vast majority of satellite viewers are apparently still not prepared to spend money on advertising-financed free-TV channels in HD quality, all the more as the channels can still be received free of charge via satellite in SD resolution.

The two major German commercial TV broadcasters RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 recently signed new long-term contracts with SES for the unencrypted SD distribution of their free-TV channels on Astra. It looks as if the broadcasters themselves no longer believe that they will be able to change viewers’ minds in the foreseeable future.

As it was the case with the closure of Diveo, HD+ is also launching a cashback campaign for Freenet TV satellite customers: To make use of the special offer, affected customers have to buy the CI+ module for HD+ including a 6-month subscription to the HD+ channel package for €79 in the HD+ web shop. They then send their Freenet CI+ module or Freenet set-top box to HD+ and receive a €39.50 refund. The ‘HD+ at half price’ offer runs until January 31, 2021.

Bulgaria Sat looks to the future

By Chris Dziadul

Bulgaria Sat, which was launched in 2017, plans to reach 65% of its capacity within two years.

Quoted by Capital, its executive director Maxim Zayakov added that it is currently in negotiations with companies from Greece, Belgium, Romania and Ukraine.

He also said that its capacity usage currently stands at 15%.

Bulgaria Sat’s existing clients are based in Serbia (Polaris Media), Germany and Iraq and according to Zayakov it will become economically viable once it exceeds 80% capacity within the next five years.

He also revealed that the satellite’s lifespan will be over 20 years thanks to the company saving fuel during the launch by using SpaceX.

Although Bulgaria Sat’s first and main client was the pay-TV operator Bulsatcom, the two companies ended their relationship in late 2019.

SRG to move to HEVC/H.265 on satellite

By JΓΆrn Krieger

In the course of 2021, Swiss public broadcaster SRG plans to migrate the DTH satellite broadcast of its TV channels on Eutelsat Hotbird (13° East) to HEVC/H.265 in preparation for the introduction of Ultra HD.

According to SRG, the move is part of its ‘UHD-Ready’ strategy to further enhance the technical picture quality.

HEVC/H.265 was developed around 10 years ago and was standardised by the ITU at the beginning of 2013. The majority of today’s TV reception devices are compatible with the video coding standard. TV sets or set-top boxes that are not compliant will have to be replaced.

SRG intends to announce the timetable for the changeover this year. However, the broadcaster is already advising retailers to sell only receivers suitable for HEVC/H.265.

Insight TV debuts on D-Smart

By Chris Dziadul

The Turkish pay-TV platform has added the 4K UHD HDR service Insight TV to its offer.

As a result, Insight TV is now available to viewers in 45 countries.

Commenting on the development, Basar Basarir, CCO & CMO at D-Smart, said: “This exciting partnership marks a great start of the year for us. We are committed to take our viewers on new adventures and are thrilled to share Insight TV’s inspiring stories with them.”

Graeme Stanley, CCO, Insight TV added: “As we continue our global expansion, we are delighted to now be present in 45 countries with more to come throughout 2020. We strive to work with the best partners worldwide and the fast-growing D-Smart is the perfect platform to introduce our content to Turkish audiences.”

D-Smart is owned by the Demirören Group and offers TV and internet services to more than one million households in Turkey.

Deutsches Musik Fernsehen launches Volksmusik.TV

By JΓΆrn Krieger

German music TV channel Deutsches Musik Fernsehen has launched a sister channel for fans of traditional and modern German folk music.

Volksmusik.TV is an advertising-financed free-TV channel broadcasting via cable and satellite. DTH satellite households across Europe can receive the channel unencrypted via Astra (19.2° East) on the frequency 12.633 GHz H (SR 22,000, FEC 5/6). Volksmusik.TV uses the former channel slot of Shop24direct.

Deutsches Musik Fernsehen itself launched in 2007 under the name Volksmusik.TV and adopted its current name in 2011. At the same time, further musical genres were added to the programme line-up.

Eutelsat launches Konnect, provides 5 West B update

By Chris Dziadul

The Eutelsat Connect satellite has been successfully launched into geostationary transfer orbit by Arianespace from the Guiana Space Centre in Korou, French Guiana.

Built by Thales Alenia Space, the satellite, features all-electric propulsion and operates in Ka-band. It is the first one to use Thales Alenia Space’s all-electric Spacebus NEO platform, developed under the Neosat Partnership Project conducted by the European and French space agencies (ESA and CNES).

Eutelsat Connect will assure full or partial coverage for up to 40 countries in Africa and 15 in Europe. Offering total capacity of 75 Gbps, by next autumn it will allow the operator to provide internet access services for both companies and individuals at up to 100 Mbps.

Commenting on the launch, Rodolphe Belmer, CEO of Eutelsat,said: “Our congratulations to Arianespace and the Guiana Space Centre teams for successfully launching our Eutelsat Connect satellite towards geostationary orbit. The collaboration between Eutelsat, Thales Alenia Space and Arianespace on this ambitious satellite programme has resulted in a world-first broadband satellite for the African and European continents that demonstrates the suitability of satellite infrastructure as a means to deliver high quality broadband services, contributing to bridging the digital divide within rural areas”.

In a separate development, Eutelsat has provided an update on the status of its Eutelsat 5 West satellite, having previously announced an investigation into a malfunction one of the two solar arrays on October 24, 2019. The investigation confirmed the loss of the satellite’s South solar array, though otherwise the satellite’s performance remains normal.

Eutelsat adds that the attendant power loss means that around 45% of the capacity of the satellite can be operated. The satellite is now expected to enter service this month and meet the designed life time.

A number of mitigation actions aimed at assuring service continuity will be implemented, following the end of life in stable orbit of the satellite, for the largest possible number of customers.

Eutelsat 5 West B is fully insured against the eventuality of a partial or total loss by a launch-plus-one-year insurance for up to €173 million.

The partial non-availability of the satellite B will reduce Financial Year 2019-20 revenues for the operating verticals by €5-10 million. The one-off cost of mitigation, mostly related to the repointing of ground antennae will be between €0-10 million.

In consequence, Eutelsat’s revenue objective for financial year 2019-20 is mechanically revised to between €1,270 million and €1,315 million for the operating verticals.

Eutelsat concludes by saying that all its other financial objectives remain unchanged.

ProSiebenSat.1 channels remain unencrypted in SD on Astra; Kabel Eins Doku HD joins HD+

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Following Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland, German media company ProSiebenSat.1 has also decided to continue broadcasting its free-TV channels unencrypted in SD resolution via the Astra satellite system (19.2 degrees East).

This is ensured by a new, long-term distribution contract for the use of satellite capacity with Astra operator SES. In addition to the SD channels, an agreement also covers the distribution of the HD versions of the free-TV channels on subscription platform HD+, operated by SES. Sat.1 HD, ProSieben HD, Kabel Eins HD, sixx HD, Sat.1 Gold HD and ProSieben Maxx HD thus continue to be available on HD+.

The contract also includes the non-linear distribution of HD content including features such as instant restart and the catch-up TV services as well as rights for smart TV and mobile applications.

A new addition is documentary channel Kabel Eins Doku HD, which will be offered on HD+ from January 17, 2020 as the platform’s 24th channel.

ProSiebenSat.1 and HD+ also plan to broadcast more Ultra HD content via satellite in the coming months, including for the first time content from Kabel Eins Doku, in addition to programmes from Sat.1 and ProSieben. A ProSiebenSat.1 spokesman didn’t want to comment on the duration of the contracts when approached by Broadband TV News.

“We have a longstanding and successful partnership with Astra and HD+. Thanks to the new contractual basis with both partners, our viewers will be able to receive our seven free-TV channels via satellite in HD quality in future,” said Nicole Agudo Berbel, Chief Distribution Officer & EVP Digital Publishing at ProSiebenSat.1. “In addition, our viewers will also be able to watch the content of the ProSiebenSat.1 channels on HD+ on-demand and time-shifted.”

The move by ProSiebenSat.1 follows the recent announcement by Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland of a new contract with SES for the unencrypted distribution of its free-TV channels via Astra until 2024. Germany’s two largest commercial broadcast groups have committed themselves to the Federal Cartel Office anyway to broadcast their free-TV channels unencrypted in SD resolution until the end of 2022.

In contrast, German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF are considering dropping the SD distribution of their channels on Astra as early as this year, driven by demands from licence fee commission KEF, which sees this as a way to save costs. The public broadcasters benefit from the fact that their HD channels are unencrypted, which means that their reach is significantly higher than the encrypted commercial HD channels.