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Yesterday β€” April 19th 2018Broadband TV News: Satellite

Sky Q in 2.5 million homes

By Julian Clover

Sky’s next generation platform Sky Q is now in 2.5 million homes in the UK, Ireland and Italy. The broadcaster announced the figure with its third quarter trading statement and confirmed that the Spotify premium music service would launch on the platform next week.

Sky reported a 5% increase in like for like revenue at £10.1 billion. Operating profit was up 22% at £857 million (€984m).

As well as a rollout in Germany, as reported in Broadband TV News earlier this week, there are plans for a redesign to the user interface, a new dedicated kids mode and new voice controls.

CEO Jeremy Darroch said Sky’s priorities remained unchanged against a back drop of a challenging consumer environment. “We’re giving more customers the best viewing experience with the further development and roll out of Sky Q, now in millions of homes and launching in Germany & Austria in two weeks’ time as part of the ongoing transformation of our business in these markets. Customers can look forward to an even broader choice of entertainment through our pioneering new partnerships with Netflix and Spotify, together with our new Premier League deal which secures the UK rights until 2022.”

However, while Germany waits for the May 2 launch of Sky Q, the subscriber base fell by 30,000 on the quarter, though overall the year-over-year figure was up at 5.2 million. Italy also saw an erosion of 2,000 customers at 4.8 million; growth in DTH customers offset by the continuing decline in Telecom Italia IPTV.

The UK market continues to grow with another 70,000 customers taking the installed base in the UK & Ireland to 13 million.

Before yesterdayBroadband TV News: Satellite

Eutelsat completes EUR302mi Hispasat sale

By Robert Briel

Eutelsat Communications hassod its 33.69% stake in the Spanish satellite operator, Hispasat, for a consideration of EUR302 million.

The transaction concludes an agreement reached in May 2017 between Eutelsat and Abertis which was recently approved by the Spanish Council of Ministers, thereby lifting the last condition precedent to its completion.

The divestment of Eutelsat’s stake in Hispasat is in line with the Group’s strategy of rationalising its portfolio of assets in order to maximise cash generation.

SES-12 arrives at Cape Canaveral for SpaceX launch

By Robert Briel

The SES-12 spacecraft has arrived at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in preparation for launch on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

SES-12, which is designed with both state-of-the-art wide beams and high throughput beams, will join SES-8 at 95 degrees East to serve SES video and data customers across the Asia-Pacific region. It will replace and augment services currently provided on NSS-6.

Like SES-14 and SES-15, which serve the Americas, SES-12’s high throughput capabilities are SES’s answer to soaring connectivity demand in the aeronautical and maritime segments in the Asia-Pacific region.

Together with SES-8, SES-12 will reach 18 million TV homes from its 95 degrees East orbital position, and will provide pay-TV operators the reliability and scalability to deliver high-quality and immersive viewing experiences and address the ever-increasing audience demand for High Definition (HD) and Ultra HD content.

SES-12 is the largest and most powerful all electric satellite ever produced. It is based on the Eurostar platform in its E3000e variant, which uses electric propulsion for orbit raising (EOR). The related mass saving enables SES-12 to combine two high-capacity missions, equivalent to two conventional satellites, in one satellite.

To fulfill its dual mission, SES-12 features both wide beams and high throughput spot beams to serve diverse connectivity needs.

SES-12 will operate in the Ku and Ka-bands with a total of 76 active transponders and eight antennas. It will have a launch mass of 5,400 kg and an electrical power of 19 kW. It has been designed to remain in service for more than 15 years.

Martin Halliwell, CTO at SES said, “SES-12 was built to meet the dynamic needs of our customers across the Asia-Pacific region, and to empower them to capture massive growth opportunities in their markets. When co-located with SES-8, it will provide incremental high performance capacity and offer greater reliability and flexibility to our video and data customers.”

The SES-12 spacecraft will join SES’s network of seven geostationary satellites and 16 MEO satellites in the Asia-Pacific region to provide unparalleled coverage to over 20 countries.

Kiwisat launches new DTH service in the Caribbean

By Robert Briel

Satellite TV provider Kiwisat is launching a new DTH offering in the Caribbean to deliver TV entertainment to consumers on the islands using SES’s satellite SES-10.

Under the long-term agreement announced by SES, Kiwisat is leasing capacity on SES-10 to deliver about 130 channels, including 90 HD channels. The DTH platform is mainly aiming at English-speaking islands, with an exclusive package of American TV channels, but also includes three French-speaking channels for French subscribers.

As the first platform to rely on the DVB S2X and HEVC standards in the North American pay TV market, Kiwisat offers the largest HD line-up in the Caribbean region.

To support the roll-out of Kiwisat’s DTH platform, SES Video conducted an Elevate training programme in Saint Martin, where Kiwisat is based. This training programme provides antenna installers with the right set of skills to execute high-quality installations of satellite dishes in TV homes, ensuring that subscribers will enjoy top-quality reception. As a starting point, SES trained 10 installers to help Kiwisat deploy its platform.

“The TV options in the Caribbean are quite limited in terms of quality and price, so when we decided to launch our TV offer in the region, we set very high standards for ourselves because we wanted to bring the best possible service to our consumers,” said Andrew Wang, CEO of Kiwisat.

“SES has a track-record of providing high-quality broadcasting services which suited our expectations, but what truly made the difference is their full-fledged support. SES has been working with us every step of the way to build this project, and activities such as the Elevate training programme really added value to our business. I could not think of a better partner than SES to accompany us on our journey.”

“We are very excited to support Kiwisat in bringing new TV entertainment choices to the population in the Caribbean,” said Jurandir Pitsch, Vice President, Sales & Market Development for Latin America and Caribbean, SES Video.

“Our SES-10 satellite, designed exclusively for Latin America, offers ideal coverage for Kiwisat over the Caribbean, with one beam dedicated to this area and Mexico. As the leading HD/UHD platform worldwide, SES Video is very well positioned to distribute high picture quality content to Kiwisat’s subscribers.”

NASA TV HD and NASA TV UHD come to Eutelsat satellites

By Robert Briel

Eutelsat has launched the NASA High Definition (NTV-3) and NASA Ultra High Definition (NTV-4) channels free-to-air via satellite across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The NASA TV channels broadcast coverage of launches, life on-board the International Space Station, Earth views from space, deep space exploration, the solar system, Mars, replay of NASA classics such as the Apollo programme, and documentaries on NASA’s latest R&D work.

NASA TV HD is transmitted free-to-air from the Hotbird video neighbourhood at 13 degrees East for viewers in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and via the 7 degrees East video neighbourhood for viewers in Sub-Saharan Africa.

NASA TV UHD is also broadcast on the Hotbird and 7 degrees East video neighbourhoods, as well as the Fransat TV platform via the Eutelsat 5 West A satellite, for subscribers equipped with an Ultra HD-compatible TV set. The channel, produced by Harmonic, leverages Harmonic’s latest Ultra HD end-to-end media processing and delivery technologies, with image resolution levels four times higher than standard HD.

M7 Group extends SES capacity contract

By Robert Briel

European pay-tv operator M7 Group extends agreement with SES to broadcast its channel package to the Benelux countries and German-speaking markets via the orbital position of 19.2 degrees East.

Under the agreement announced by SES, M7 Group will continue to use one full transponder on an Astra satellite to deliver its TV package to subscribers in the Benelux and across German-speaking countries for the next three years.

“We are pleased with the extension of the 19.2 degrees East transponder contract, allowing us to continue serving our subscribers in the Benelux and German speaking markets with channels via this position, while also benefiting from its extensive content neighborhood”, said Bill Wijdeveld, VP Business Development at M7 Group.

“Being a long-standing customer of SES, we very much value the high quality service provisioning and we look forward to a continued fruitful partnership over the coming years.”

“We are delighted to continue providing M7 Group with access to our prime video neighbourhood at 19.2 degrees East, and enable them to leverage our strong reach in the Benelux and German-speaking countries for their distribution,” said Martin Ornass-Kubacki, VP, Sales Central Eastern Europe, SES Video.

“M7 Group has been relying on SES to deliver high-quality content to various parts of Europe for many years, not only via 19.2 degrees East but also via 23.5 degrees East to reach viewers in the Benelux and Central Eastern Europe”.

Unbrossa launches β€˜Play’ DTH platform for the Caribbean

By Robert Briel

Unbrossa (Unique Broadcasting Service S.A.) is launching a new low-cost DTH platform for the Caribbean, called Play.

The company has signed a multiyear, multi-transponder agreement with Eutelsat Americas, a subsidiary of Eutelsat Communications for capacity on the Eutelsat 117 West B satellite

With an offer of over 125 channels, including 25 HD channels, Play will provide next-generation video services to the Caribbean. The platform is scheduled to launch in spring 2018, with a broad range of affordable packages.

“Satellite connectivity via the Play DTH platform is designed to empower communities in less-developed parts of the Caribbean, opening new doors to knowledge and leading to economic development. Significantly contributing to the reduction of the digital divide, in some of the most isolated parts of the Caribbean, the platform will also be available as a solar-powered solution to reach viewers in regions not covered by the electric grid,” according to the company.

Didier Alerte, CEO of Unbrossa, said: “This project is a major milestone as it will bring television to many for the first time, creating a significant impact on their access to information and quality of life. Play is truly the first real DTH platform tailored and built for the region.”

Mike Antonovich, CEO of Eutelsat Americas, said: “We are delighted that Unbrossa has selected Eutelsat 117 West B to launch this innovative DTH platform in the Caribbean. The distribution of the islands and their low population density make satellite the best suited solution to connect the population across the region, reaching even the most remote areas.”

Intelsat debuts new MCPC platform for CEE region

By Robert Briel

Intelsat has launched a new, Ku-band Multi-Channel Per Carrier (MCPC) media platform for Central and Eastern Europe.

As part of the IntelsatOne terrestrial network, the platform will provide regional and international programmers with a solution that will enable them to expand their reach to cable headends, Direct-to-Home (DTH) and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) distribution.

Encompass Digital Media (Encompass), a global technology services company delivering end-to-end video solutions to broadcast and media companies, will provide multiplexing services for the platform from its facility in London, and Intelsat will provide further ground and uplink facilities from its Fuchsstadt, Germany teleport.

Programmers will be able to contribute SD or HD content from anywhere around the world via Intelsat’s global satellite fleet, the IntelsatOne network or through Encompass’ network. The platform is set to support MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 compression technology, and Intelsat’s high-powered wide beams, optimised for DTH, can be received with 60cm antennas in much of its coverage area.

The new MCPC platform will provide programmers with immediate access to 1 degrees West, located on the Intelsat 10-02 satellite. With four leading DTH platforms and over 425 unique channels reaching approximately 18 million households across Europe, programmers will have access to a solution for cable/IPTV and affiliate distribution, will have the ability to leverage the platform’s existing channel content, and will have an opportunity to cost-effectively launch new channels and test new markets.

“Intelsat and Encompass have a strong history of working together to deliver innovative solutions that enable international programmers to cost effectively grow their distribution network,” said Rob Cerbone, Intelsat’s VP and General Manager, Media.

“Working closely with Encompass, we will be able to provide international programmers with immediate access to millions of households, enabling them to distribute high-quality, secure, differentiated and entertaining content to viewers across Central and Eastern Europe.”

“Our longstanding partnership with Intelsat provides international programmers with a simple, turnkey solution for content distribution,” said Encompass’ Marc Bruce, Managing Director, APAC & EMEA.

“The new MCPC platform at 1°West will provide our customers with immediate access to one of the leading video neighborhoods in Europe, the ability to operate more efficiently and deliver high-quality and compelling content to their viewers.”

John-Paul Hemingway new CEO of SES Networks

By Robert Briel

SES announced has appointed John-Paul Hemingway as CEO of SES Networks with effect from April 5, 2018, succeeding Steve Collar who officially takes on his new position as President & CEO of SES.

In his new function, Hemingway will join the Executive Committee of SES which then comprises Steve Collar (President & CEO), Andrew Browne (Chief Financial Officer), Ferdinand Kayser (CEO SES Video), Christophe De Hauwer (Chief Strategy and Development Officer), Martin Halliwell (Chief Technology Officer), Evie Roos (Chief Human Resources Officer) and John Purvis (Chief Legal Officer).

Hemingway previously served as SES Networks’ Executive Vice President of Product, Marketing & Strategy where he was responsible for business development, strategy, product development and management as well as marketing. He was the Chief Marketing Officer of O3b Networks before SES acquired the company and integrated it into its data-focused business unit, SES Networks. Hemingway joined O3b from the network specialist Ciena where he held various senior management roles in strategy, sales, product, marketing and technical functions. He holds a PhD in Optical Communications from Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK and is a British citizen.

“John-Paul was instrumental in the outstanding success of O3b and its integration into SES,” said SES President & CEO Steve Collar.

“Not only is John-Paul an executive with extensive skill sets and experiences in numerous disciplines, his background in the telecommunications and network industry also means that he has great insights into what our customers are seeking when building and managing their network and business solutions. I have no doubt that John-Paul will set out to lead the teams and achieve the vision of SES Networks to capture significant growth potential in our different markets and segments and become a leading global communications service provider.”

Slovenia’s STN extends Intelsat deal

By Chris Dziadul

Satellite Telecommunications Network (STN) has signed a multi-year extension with Intelsat supporting DTH and media distribution services in North America via the Galaxy 19 satellite.

Commenting on the development, Mitja Lovsin, CCO of STN, said: “Intelsat’s Galaxy 19 satellite enables us to reliably distribute premium programming and deliver regionalised content from the Middle East and Asia to millions of homes across North America.

“The quality, unparalleled coverage and efficiency provided by Galaxy 19 have spurred the rapid growth of our media distribution services in North America. Our continued partnership with Intelsat will enable us to further build our subscriber base and deliver more compelling programming and services to our customers”.

Rob Cerbone, Intelsat’s VP and general manager, media, added: “Galaxy 19 enables service providers such as STN to reliably and cost-efficiently deliver programming to millions of homes across the continental United States, the Caribbean, Alaska and Hawaii and Mexico.

“Its premier multicultural video neighborhood provides a perfect venue for STN to distribute content, grow their subscriber base and achieve a strong return on their investment.”

STN is a leading teleport based in Slovenia. It provides global solutions while also serving individual regional markets in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Satellite remains leading TV reception infrastructure in Germany

By JΓΆrn Krieger

DTH satellite reception remains the most used TV reception method in Germany: Its reach rose by around 130,000 households to 17.72 million in 2017.

By contrast, cable television lost 180,000 households and decreased to 16.39 million. With a growth by 300,000 to 2.64 million households, IPTV recorded the strongest increase. At 1.83 million households, digital terrestrial television (DTT) remained at the previous year’s level.

This means that 45.9% of the 38.58 million German TV households opted for DTH satellite reception, 42.5% for cable, 6.8% for IPTV and 4.7% for DTT.

These are the results of the Astra TV-Monitor 2017 carried out annually by market research institute Kantar TNS on behalf of Astra Deutschland. The survey of a total of 6,000 households across Germany took place at the end of 2017. In the evaluation, the main reception device of the households was taken into account, usually the large TV set in the living room.

The number of HD households in Germany rose from 22.54 million to 27.48 million within one year. This means that 71% of all households watched television in HD quality in 2017. With 12.66 million households, DTH satellite is the leading HD reception infrastructure. Cable (10.86 million) and IPTV (2.52 million) follow in second and third place.

However: Of the 12.66 million HD satellite households, only 2.1 million have opted for for subscription platform HD+ on which the commercial free-to-air TV channels can be received in HD quality. There was no increase in paying HD+ customers in 2017 compared to 2016. The majority of HD satellite households seem to be satisfied with receiving commercial free-TV channels in SD quality free of charge.

However, the two new platforms Diveo from M7 Group and Freenet TV via satellite by Media Broadcast which also offer the commercial channels in HD quality on Astra could provide a boost.

Following the transition to the new DVB-T2 standard, DTT appears for the first time in HD distribution statistics with 1.44 million households.

Demand for Ultra HD continues to grow: 2.7 million UHD TV sets were sold in Germany in 2017, compared to less than 2 million a year earlier, according to German industry association gfu. By the end of 2017, a total of almost 6 million UHD devices had been sold in Germany.

The Astra TV-Monitor 2017 can be downloaded from the Astra Deutschland website as a PDF document.

Eutelsat helps Croatian HRT’s international expansion

By Chris Dziadul

The Croatian public broadcaster Hrvatska Radiotelevizija (HRT) has signed a multi-year agreement with Eutelsat on Hotbird in order to distribute its latest news, educational and entertainment channel HRT-HTV 5 to an international audience.

HRT-HTV 5 offers 24-hour programming in Croatian, as well as content in English, Spanish and German. It joins the 1,000 channels available via Hotbird to more than 135 million households in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Up until now, HRT has operated four terrestrial TV channels distributed via Eutelsat 16A in Croatia.

Commenting on the agreement, Kazimir Bacic, CEO of HRT, said: “The launch of HRT-HTV 5 reflects the vibrancy of Croatian broadcasting, in particular for news and other services. Our drive to share this with a wide national and international audience has been made possible thanks to satellite broadcasting via Hotbird, which was the obvious step in achieving this goal.”

Michel Azibert, chief commercial and development officer at Eutelsat, added: “We are delighted with HRT-HTV 5’s arrival on Hotbird, and through this with the new momentum given to our partnership with a renowned public broadcasting group such as HRT. This agreement once again shows the legitimacy of this leading position for broadcasters who wish to reach key audiences spread over a very large geographical area.”

Hispasat – a progress report

By Chris Dziadul, Hispasat Innovation Days, London

Hispasat has placed a strong emphasis on investment in recent years, allocating €1 billion between 2012-17, according to Jose Antonio Guerra, the head of the company’s business office.

Speaking in an opening presentation at Hispasat Innovation Days in London, he added that by way of comparison its revenues in 2017 amounted to €235 million.

Guerra also said that Hispasat remains confident in the future but realises it faces a very difficult challenge. In effect, it has to change everything, including the business model.

It will be important to focus on the broadband market rather than video services in Western Europe.

Hispasat is the ninth largest satellite operator in the world in revenue terms and this year has 11 satellites in orbit in seven different slots. Its traditional 30 degrees West slot hosts three satellites, the newest of which (H30W-6) was launched last month.

Its other slots are 36W, 55,5W, 61W, 70W and 84W, and it has a total of 333C and Ku band transponders.

Yanga! launches free-to-air on UK’s Freesat

By Robert Briel

Yanga!, the new general entertainment channel for the UK’s African diaspora, is available free-to-air on UK’s Freesat.

“YANGA! means self-pride and showing-off in West African pidgin,” says Lindsey Oliver, managing director of free-to-air on UK’s Freesat’s parent company, Africa MediaWorks.

“We want to celebrate the eclectic and inspirational lives and culture of Africans living in the UK by delivering positive and empowering stories.

“African cultural influence is so prevalent in the UK right now and we want to bolster this excitement by shining a light on its best entertainers, comedians and musicians. We are delighted to announce our carriage on Freesat as we believe it is a great platform for our audience due to its excellent value and the variety it offers.” ?

Alistair Thom, managing director at Freesat, said: “Freesat is committed to bringing a wealth of content to customers and broadening its channel offering, and we’re delighted to welcome YANGA! to the platform. The channel brings a wide range of entertainment and cultural programmes from West Africa to the UK, all subscription free.

Yanga! launched in the UK on March 5 and is also available on Sky. Yanga! is advertiser-funded, OFCOM-regulated and BARB-rated. Yanga! broadcasts 15 hours a day from 09.00 to 12.00 GMT.

SES reaches 351mi TV homes worldwide

By Broadband TV News Correspondent

The number of video households served by SES has continued to increase, reaching 351 million TV homes in 2017 according to SES’s annual market research, Satellite Monitor.

This substantial technical reach compared with 325 million households in 2016 means that SES is now delivering video content to more than 1 billion global viewers.

SES’s increased technical reach reflects the expansion of the survey with the addition of new countries (Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda and Turkey) and the wider reach of Yahlive, namely in the Maghreb countries, together accounting for 17 million more SES TV homes. On a like-for-like basis, the technical reach grew by 9 million SES TV homes, mainly in Nigeria, Ghana and the Middle East.

Out of its 351 million TV homes, SES directly reaches 145 million, and indirectly serves another 147 million cable homes, 40 million IPTV homes, and 18 million terrestrial homes.

The Satellite Monitor shows that Europe continues to be a strong and resilient market where satellite broadcasting is a highly attractive platform for reliable and cost-effective video delivery to large audiences. SES now reaches 167 million TV homes in Europe, up from 156 million in 2016. This growth is mainly driven by the addition of Turkey and the additional reach of Yahlive in the Maghreb countries, which together represent an increase of 10 million TV homes. Technical reach across the core markets in Europe was stable.

The study also shows the key role of SES to deliver HD content: today, SES delivers HD content to 107 million homes, which represents two thirds of all European TV homes enjoying HD. As the leading HD platform, SES carries 2,602 HD channels worldwide, out of 7,709 channels in total. In Europe, SES delivers 2,670 TV channels, including 798 in HD.

In Africa, SES now reaches 30 million homes. In West Africa, SES has seen a strong growth with an increase from 3 million homes to 11 million in Nigeria, and from 2 million to 4 million in Ghana. Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania – which are being included in the Satellite Monitor for the first year – account for 7 million homes. Through Yahlive, a joint venture between SES and Yahsat, SES serves 13 million homes in the Middle East and South West Asia, up from 11 million TV homes in 2016. For the rest of the world, SES reaches 32 million homes in Asia-Pacific, 75 million homes in North America, and 33 million in Latin America.

“The Satellite Monitor shows that our strategy to invest in growth markets is successful and results in a significantly larger geographical reach,” said Ferdinand Kayser, CEO of SES Video.

“We continue to leverage our growing, unique technical reach worldwide to help our customers build their businesses and expand their audiences. In Africa, our infrastructure will continue to play a key role in the digital switch-over, while in developed countries, namely Europe, our satellites remain the leading platform to deliver HD and drive Ultra HD to millions of households. We are also strongly supporting the development and roll-out of HD and Ultra HD in the Americas and Asia Pacific.”

Sky Deutschland to show FIFA World Cup 2018 in Ultra HD

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Sky Deutschland has secured the exclusive Ultra HD broadcast rights to 25 matches of the 2018 FIFA Football World Cup in Russia.

The agreement with SportA, the sports rights agency of German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF, grants the pay-TV operator the right to show the Match of the Day live in UHD on all tournament days. Financial details of the sublicensing deal were not disclosed.

The Sky Sport UHD offer is available to all Sky subscribers in Germany who use the Sky+ Pro receiver and have an Ultra HD TV set.

In addition to the opening match on June 14, 2018, the live coverage will include all games of the German national team and other selected matches including two quarter-finals, both semi-finals, the match for third place and the final on July 15, 2018.

“With the first and exclusive broadcast of the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Ultra HD, Sky Deutschland underscores its role as a pioneer and innovation driver in German television,” said Dr Holger Enßlin, Managing Director Legal, Regulatory & Distribution at Sky Deutschland. “As it was the case in 2006 with the first transmission of a World Cup in HD, Sky customers will again be the first to enjoy the latest technology and an unprecedented viewing experience. The Ultra HD broadcast of 25 matches from Russia is another milestone for the distribution of Ultra HD in Germany.”

The transmissions of the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Ultra HD will be available to all Sky customers in Germany using the Sky+ Pro receiver, independent of the subscription packages they signed up for. The broadcasts on Sky Sport UHD can be received via satellite on Astra (19.2° East) and by almost all Sky cable customers.

ARD and ZDF, the owners of the broadcasting rights for all 64 FIFA World Cup 2018 matches, will show all games live in SD and HD resolution.

In October 2017, world football association FIFA announced that all 64 matches of the 2018 World Cup will be produced in Ultra HD/HDR format for the first time.

Since October 2016 Sky has been showing football matches from the Bundesliga and the UEFA Champions League in Ultra HD resolution on its sports channels Sky Sport UHD and Sky Sport Bundesliga UHD.

Sky Italia and Open Fiber launch fibre-only service

By Julian Clover

The internet version of the Sky Q box will make its debut on a new fibre-only service from Sky Italia and Open Fiber.

The two companies have announced a long term deal that will see the first services launch from summer 2019. It will run alongside Sky’s existing offer.

Andrea Zappia, Sky Italia CEO said, “Sky’s mission is to be at the centre of both innovation in the TV industry and the digitalization process of Italy. This agreement with Open Fiber is an important next step. We believe that pay-TV has significant room for growth and fibre represents an innovative and simple way to deliver more quality TV and on-demand content into the heart of Italian homes.”

The deal will give Sky access to Open Fiber’s FTTH (fibre-to-the-home) network which is set to reach the 271 main urban areas of the country by 2022.

Elisabetta Ripa, Open Fiber CEO said, “We strongly believe that our wholesale-only business model is the best way to accelerate the roll out and penetration in Italy of innovative ultra broadband services, provided on a pure fibre infrastructure.”

The satellite version of Sky Q launched in the Italian market in November 2017.

German HD platform Freenet TV launches on Astra

By JΓΆrn Krieger

German platform operator Media Broadcast has launched the satellite version of its DVB-T2 platform Freenet TV for DTH households in Germany on Astra (19.2° East).

The TV line-up comprises the HD versions of the 19 commercial free-to-air channels offered terrestrially and three additional channels. The subscription price is identical to the DVB-T2 version with €5.75 per month. The first three months are free. Customers can also opt for a one-year pre-paid subscription for €69.

Freenet TV via satellite competes with the HDTV platform HD+ offered by Astra satellite operator SES which has been the only provider marketing the HD versions of the commercial free-TV channels to German DTH households since its launch on November 1, 2009.

Two competitors are now entering the market almost simultaneously. On February 14, 2018, M7 Group, which was previously only active in the German B2B market as a channel and service supplier for network operators, launched its DTH platform Diveo for satellite households. Unlike Freenet TV which only offers free-TV channels, Diveo also includes pay-TV services.

At a press conference in Cologne at the occasion of Freenet TV’s first anniversary and the satellite launch, Christoph Vilanek (pictured right), CEO of Media Broadcast’s parent company Freenet, recalled that people laughed at him when he presented his plans for a DTT platform two years ago, arguing that this was old technology. “Now we have 2.5 million users.” Of these, over one million are paying customers of Freenet TV. By the end of the year, the target is “well over 1.2 million,” said Vilanek.

A major part of the growth is expected from the satellite launch taking place on March 28, 2018, one year after the DVB-T2 launch. The move unveiled by Broadband TV News in June 2017 will enable Media Broadcast to reach households outside the terrestrial coverage area and to tap into Germany’s large DTH satellite community: 47% of German TV households have opted for DTH, corresponding with 18 million households.

Technically, Media Broadcast handles the satellite distribution of the HD channels the same way as M7: The Freenet TV encryption system is added to the existing broadcast signals, as Media Broadcast CEO Wolfgang Breuer (pictured left) explained. With HD+ and Diveo, the channels are now carrying conditional access information of three different providers. The transponder capacities are rented from SES by the TV broadcasters. On Astra, like on DVB-T2, Freenet TV uses a cardless encryption system from Irdeto.

Since the broadcasters transmit their channels on Astra in 1080i, Freenet TV cannot offer DTH households the higher Full-HD quality level 1080p employed on DVB-T2. The video quality on DTT is therefore “slightly better,” said Breuer. He explained that it was not an alternative to rent separate transponders to broadcast the channels in 1080p because of the associated high costs of €15-20 million per year. “Then the case is dead.” In order to recuperate the higher costs, Freenet TV would have to demand a monthly fee of around €15 from DTH viewers. They wouldn’t be willing to pay that, he’s sure.

The target group of Freenet TV via satellite are primarily households that still have an SD satellite receiver or already have HD reception hardware, but still watch the commercial free-TV channels in SD resolution. Freenet TV offers an HD satellite receiver and CI+ module for them respectively. The module costs €79.99 (recommended retail price). The Digit S4 Freenet TV receiver from German manufacturer TechniSat is available for €109.99 (recommended retail price), but is expected to be offered by many retailers for €99. Media Broadcast wants to certify two to four further boxes from other manufacturers for satellite reception of Freenet TV, according to Breuer.

The work involved in preparing the satellite distribution of Freenet TV was relatively modest, said Breuer, not least because a lot of preparatory work had already been carried out for the DVB-T2 launch such as setting up the billing system. The existing CI+ modules and pre-paid subscription vouchers also suitable for the satellite version. The greatest effort by far had been concluding new contracts with the TV broadcasters since the old agreements only covered DTT, according to Breuer.

But how does Media Broadcast want to succeed in convincing customers of its offer which is largely identical to HD+ and costs the same price? “We are hungry, ambitious and want to grow,” said Breuer, adding with regard to HD+ and its parent company SES that Freenet’s business is the end-customer while its competitor mainly wants to sell transponders.

Freenet also had better sales structures and access to 9 million Freenet customers, thus, a lot of potential for upselling, Breuer explained the estimated market opportunities. Vilanek added that distribution of the product though its 600 high-street shops provides a “huge advantage” for Freenet. Employees will actively ask the visitors of the shops whether they want to receive the commercial channels in HD quality. According to his personal impression, the public is hardly even aware of the fact that the commercial channels are available in HD resolution.

HD+ subscriptions stagnated at 2.1 million paying customers in 2017. In view of the total of 18 million satellite households in Germany, Breuer sees great potential for Freenet TV. He expects the trend in TV set sales towards larger screens and the discussion about SD switch-off on Astra to provide additional upturn.

At launch it will not be possible to receive Freenet TV on Astra through the receivers and smartcards from pay-TV operator Sky Deutschland as it is the case with HD+. But Vilanek would be open to such a cooperation: “If there’s a tender, we will take a look.”

Freenet TV via satellite comprises the 19 channels distributed via DVB-T2 including the channels of the two major commercial TV broadcasters RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 as well as MTV HD, TLC HD and Insight HD, as Jörg Brühl, Director Marketing & Sales Freenet TV at Media Broadcast, explained. He pointed out that the channels forming part of the line-up have a 95% share of the viewer market.

Diveo carries pay-TV channels on its platform, HD+ also offers a pay-TV channel, namely Eurosport 2 HD Xtra. But for Freenet TV, pay-TV is not an option. “I don’t believe in linear pay-TV, except in sports,” said Breuer, adding that the days of waiting for 20.15 CET to watch a movie are over. He is convinced that film and series consumption will shift to on-demand services such as Amazon Prime Video or Netflix. The consequence: “Linear pay-TV will die.”

According to Vilanek, the declining attractiveness of linear pay-TV channels is also reflected in the fact that Sky Deutschland has recently removed so many third-party channels.

Through its accompanying OTT service Freenet TV Connect, Freenet TV offers DVB-T2 and DTH households access to on-demand and interactive services such as the catch-up portals of the TV broadcasters and apps. The livestreams of linear TV channels part of the DVB-T2 version of Freenet TV Connect are not offered to DTH households, though, as these channels can be received as regular satellite channels on Astra.

Eutelsat pulls the plug on the Eutelsat TV Awards

By Robert Briel

EXCLUSIVE. Eutelsat Communications has decided to terminate the Eutelsat TV Awards, an event that was held 19 times since 1998 when it was known as the Hotbird Awards.

The Paris-based satellite operator has informed the members of the jury that the awards will no longer take place. The last time that the awards were given was in 2016 and last year Eutelsat said that the event would be organised every two years rather than yearly.

But now, Eutelsat has decided to stop the event altogether. In a statement to the jury members Eutelsat said that “every measure will be taken to focus on the clients’ needs, and Eutelsat will remain totally dedicated to serving the media community.” No press statement will be forthcoming.

The Eutelsat TV Awards was an annual competition “that shines a spotlight on what makes today’s television great, rewarding broadcasters for exceptional creativity, innovation and audience engagement.”

Former Corporate Communications Director Vanessa O’Connor inaugurated the renowned TV Awards. Participating channels were assessed by an independent jury of leading journalists, programme makers and media commentators from around the world.

A list of all the historic winners of the Hotbird Awards and Eutelsat TV Awards can be found here.

The last awards were given in 2016 at a ceremony in Milan (see picture above), and at the time the jury consisted of Jerzy Barski, TV-Sat Magazine (Poland), Frédéric Vaulpré, Eurodata TV (France), Robert Briel, Broadband TV News (UK), Paolo Dalla Chiara, Pentastudio (Italy), Dmitry Dibrov, journalist and TV presenter (Russia), Giacomo Mazzone, EBU/Eurovisioni, Tayfun Atay, Cumhuriyet / Okan University (Turkey), Reem Nouss, Executive producer / TV consultant (UK). Jury chairman: Duilio Giammaria, RAI (Italy). Technical expert: Mauro Roffi, Millecanali (Italy).

SSL to construct Amos-8 satellite

By Julian Clover

Maxar Technologies’ SSL is to build the new Amos-8 satellite for Spacecom.

The Israeli operator says Amos-8 is slated for launch in 2020 to the 4 degrees West orbital slot, increasing access to high-speed data and streaming entertainment to customers across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Amos-8 will feature high power Ku-band and Ka-band payloads with steerable antennas to enable customers to deliver various added value services.

“SSL is dedicated to delivering advanced space systems and services that inform, entertain and connect people around the globe,” said Dario Zamarian, group president of SSL. “SSL will demonstrate our industry-leading technological capabilities, our legacy of expertise and our commercial mindset to meet all of Spacecom’s mission requirements. We are honored to be selected to manufacture this satellite, which will enable access for underserved people in Europe, Africa and the Middle East to high-speed, reliable data—a connection essential in today’s digital world to understand what is happening across the planet and participate fully in the global community.”

The Amos-8 geostationary communications satellite will be co-located with Amos-3. A contract option has already been signed between Spacecom and SpaceX for Amos-8’s scheduled launch in the second half of 2020.

“Amos-8 will bring additional high-quality capacity to expand our offerings and provide our partners with the abilities to add new and exciting services,” said David Pollack, CEO and president of Spacecom. “Spacecom is dedicated to delivering reliable and cost-effective services that are enjoyed and relied upon by millions of people and businesses. We are eager to work together with SSL to develop this new satellite.”

SSL is owned by Maxar Technologies (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd).