Sat-ND, 16.9.96

Sat-ND 96-09-16 - Satellite and Media News

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This issue is sponsored by TELE-satellite, Europe's Satellite Magazine 
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Channel 5 on satellite
Yes, the UK's new terrestrial service Channel 5 will be distributed via
satellite. But no, you won't probably be able to watch it, unless you a)
are a UK cable operator; b) have an MPEG-2 receiver; and c) install a
2.4-metre (2.7 ft.) dish aligned to ORION 1.
Channel 5, the latest (and last) terrestrial network, which is due to be
launched next spring, will use both ORION 1 (37.5W) and INTELSAT 705
(18W) for distributing several regional versions of programming.
Instead of PAL, the transmission channels will utilise the digital
standard MPEG-2, meaning that they won't be available to the public at
On the International Broadcasters Convention (IBC) in Amsterdam, Channel
5's controller of engineering and operations, Chris Collingham, tried to
cheat the public by claiming that digital distribution offers
"picture-quality benefits," which simply is untrue as far as MPEG-2 in
concerned. (A digitally compressed picture cannot be as good as the
original source for obvious reasons such as natural laws.) 
He admitted that MPEG-2 "offers us obvious economic [benefits] and [...]
also provides added operational flexibility and new marketing
opportunities. The extra facilities offered by a digital solution was
the key to us choosing satellite as the backbone to our distribution
network." This solution, he said, "gives us the option to target virtual
regions with specific programming and advertising -- regions which can
be as localised as the area served by a single transmitter." 

Another one cuts the price
Canadian company Tee-Comm will drop the price of its digital satellite
receiver from around US$699 to US$269-299 by subsidising the costs of
the box ''to some degree.'' Patrick Murphy, vice-president and general
manager of Tee-Comm Electronics Inc., has come to the conclusion that
"there's no money in hardware." Besides making and distributing
satellite television equipment, Tee-Comm markets the AlphaStar
direct-to-home satellite television service in the US. The company has
also filed an application with the Canadian CRTC for a licence to
operate a similar service in Canada. A decision is still pending.
Tee-Comm will announce the number of its US subscribers later this year
together with the company's results for the third quarter ending
September 30. Nonetheless, Tee-Comm's stock surged this morning
following first reports on the price reduction. At some point,
Tee-Comm's stock price climbed almost 10 percent.
According to Murphy, Alphastar will have in the range of 125,000 to
150,000 subscribers by the end of December -- a small figure compared to
other digital ventures in the USA. Many of them have already lowered
their suggested retail prices for reception equipment dramatically.

Major shakeup in Germany
At the end of last week, the digital TV landscape in Germany seemed
calm; the surprise over the announcement of the Nethold-Canal+ merger a
week earlier had settled. But today, nothing is the same.
According to a report in today's Süddeutsche Zeitung, the still
state-owned telecommunications monolith Deutsche Telekom will leave the
Multimedia-Betriebsgesellschaft (MMBG,) a group of broadcasters and
companies once created to distribute digital TV. A Telekom spokesman has
meanwhile confirmed the report but refused any further comments on the
future of MMBG.
Their original goal to create a single pay TV services company for all
broadcasters, however, was never achieved. One of the major players on
the market, Leo Kirch, pushed ahead with its own digital package and
decoder. Observers noted that Kirch's jump start secured him continued
access to the movie libraries of Hollywood majors as he was able to
offer free and pay TV distribution channels. To achieve this, he would
support his ailing digital package DF1 which so far reportedly attracted
just a few thousand subscribers.
Deutsche Telekom, driving force behind the MMBG and major shareholder at
the same time (27 percent,) was left with publishing giant Bertelsmann
AG, its former ally Canal+, commercially uninteresting public
broadcasters, and some smaller firms. This alliance surprisingly
survived the defection of Rupert Murdoch, who decided to jump on Kirch's
train, and the merger of Canal+ and Nethold, a pay TV company that is
heavily co-operating with Kirch. But it will unlikely survive this
latest blow.
Telekom's decision to leave the MMBG will probably have more impact on
the German TV market than any of all those mysterious moves, mergers or
misalliances before. The company which is slated to go public this
November, operates the largest TV cable network in Germany (5.5 million
subscribers) -- and suffers heavy losses from it. Having left the MMBG,
Telekom will gain the freedom to set up a conditional access system of
their own -- of course, with a proprietary decoder. In this way, the
company will make more money out of any service that wants to be
distributed over its cable network.
A spokeswoman for publishers Bertelsmann admitted that the company was
reviewing its investment in MMBG as the basic conditions had changed.
Talks on MMBG's future were held with the remaining participants.
http://www-dw.gmd.de/sz/19960916/wirt_8.htm (Warning: German language)

You missed him. I missed him. But here he is again, re-appearing from a
three-month holiday or a computer breakdown, whatever came first. Here
are some Dutch news, provided
By Jitse Groen (Welcome back to the circus!)

Het Weerkanaal starts
The Dutch weather channel should have launched today. After being
delayed two times (it originally was planned for July 1, and later for
September 1) it has now started broadcasting to about one half of a
million households. This, of course, is not truly remarkable in a
heavily cabled country such as the Netherlands.
Het Weerkanaal will be produced in London for the time being according
to Weerkanaal, because the English (and also the European) Weather
Channel have all the required facilities at hand. Het Weerkanaal will
not only provide up-to-date regional and nation-wide weather
information. Local updates will be automatically inserted by local cable
operators with the help of computers, and besides the channel will also
transmit specific information on beach and business weather, for
example. [In this time of year, it's unfortunately more business than
beach, I'm afraid. *Sigh*  -- Ed.]

Multichoice with hardware problems
A small quarrel in the Netherlands last week. MultiChoice has for months
been refusing to supply smart cards for Panasat satellite receivers,
because those receivers (according to NetHold) were 'not suitable for
the MultiChoice package'. MultiChoice said that the receivers could not
properly receive the signals and lacked teletext support anyway.
Although this may hold true, the Panasat receivers *do* work. Even if
they didn't, MultiChoice had no right to refuse supplying smart cards.
Panasat receivers were originally made for the South African MultiChoice
package, but were imported by a Dutch company. After some Panasat buyers
threatened to take to court, MultiChoice wasn't that sure about the
receivers' deficiencies anymore. They have now agreed to supply the

Radio 538's transmitter boosts up
The NOZEMA, the company in control of most terrestrial transmitters in
the Netherlands, today has boosted Radio 538's transmission power. Radio
538 had complained that the NOZEMA did not supply the agreed power, and
NOZEMA has now been found prepared to change the transmitter in
Lelystad. At the same time, Radio 538 has started a rather sentimental
action to keep the station on air, or even better, to get the station
more transmitters. Radio 538 fears to be forced off air next year,
following a proposed auction of transmitters. The station expects not to
be able to compete with bids by more powerful stations as Veronica or
Radio 10.

Zeroes and ones
By Grandpa "Huh?" Zheng

The dead parrot sketch
We all know the Internet is ill. Actually, it is going to be pushing the
daisies real soon. A survey carried out on behalf of the magazine
Network World supports this pessimistic point of view.
Network World today released some results of a month-long investigation
into the health of the Internet that included two surveys -- one of
Internet Service Providers (ISP's) and the other of Network World
readers (Network/IS managers). The conclusion: a series of elements
threaten the existing 'Net infrastructure and could lead to its
breakdown. Thass what I say all the time!
In a Network World survey of 200 readers with responsibility for
purchasing Internet services, 65 percent of respondents said the
reliability of the Internet has either gotten worse or stayed the same
in the last six months. More than 67 percent of Network World readers
surveyed said they do not use the Internet at this time to support
applications or data which is critical to their organisation.

Copyright 1996 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.

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