Sat-ND, 18.9.96

Sat-ND 96-09-18 - Satellite and Media News

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This issue is sponsored by TELE-satellite, Europe's Satellite Magazine 
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Good bye, digital TV
Digital television in Germany is over before it had really begun. Today,
two of the major players announced independently to abandon their
current plans for digital TV packages.
Media company Bertelsmann said it has put its digital TV project Club
RTL on halt while at the same time considering to leave the Multimedia
Betriebsgesellschaft (MMBG.) This alliance of telecommunications
companies and broadcasters already suffered a heavy blow last Monday
when Deutsche Telekom declared it would leave the consortium and offer
its own conditional access system instead (Sat-ND, 16.9.96.)
Bertelsmann board member Thomas Middelhoff called the prospects of
digital TV "hopelessly overestimated," adding that his company won't
spent billions of Marks that can't be earned back before ten year's
time. Club RTL may still be launched, but not as planned before at end
of the year. According to Middelhoff, Bertelsmann will wait until the
market is ready for another digital package to compete with Leo Kirch's
Other companies seem to have come to the conclusion that the German
market with its dozens of free channels will never be ready for pay-TV
on a broad basis. Pro Sieben, ranging number three of the most popular
(free) channels, has entirely sacked its seven-channel package which was
due to be launched on November, 16. "After thoroughly examining the
market, we came to the conclusion that there's no business for us here,"
admitted Georg Kofler, director of the board. He said the company would
still continue its plans to offer digital transmissions for business and
corporate TV.
Ironically, Pro Sieben is not a member of the ill-fated MMBG but instead
of the Kirch family's media empire. As such, it had planned to use
Kirch's d-box for its package. Insiders already claim Kirch is thankful
for every decoder he does _not_ sell in Germany as the boxes are heavily

Digital problems in USA
Even in the USA, where digital TV seems to develop more successful,
first doubts have surfaced. Continental Cablevision Inc. may sell its
stake in Primestar Partners, a cable operator-backed direct broadcast
satellite venture. 
Continental president/CEO William Schleyer isn't at all sure that Direct
Satellite Broadcasting "is a great business going forward." Referring to
the latest reductions in set-top box prices and special offers, he added
"These guys are killing each other with price. So, what kind of business
is it going forward?"

Turner digital on ASTRA 1E
National Transcommunications Limited (NTL) has secured an eight-year
contract from Turner Broadcasting Systems (TBS) for uplinking the
company's digital TV signals to ASTRA 1E. Terms of the deal call for NTL
to uplink up to eight channels.
TBS will use a common multiplex provided by NTL to uplink other
broadcasters as well, according to NTL "likely the only multiplex on
ASTRA 1E which originates in the UK." Great! But what is it?
Although there may be up to ten channels carried by a single transponder
when using digital compression, broadcasters can't use their space
independently. Instead, the various sources have to be bundled before
sending them up to a satellite. This procedure, called multiplexing,
also takes the programming content into account For example, cartoons
use much less bandwidth than, say, live transmissions from a sports
even. In this context, multiplexing also means to balance the bandwidth
needs of the different channels on a single transponder.
NTL claims to have experience and expertise in handling the complex
technical arrangements involved in broadcasting digital signals,
although we understand that TBS is their first customer for the ASTRA 1E

First PAS transmissions from The Democratic People's Republic of North
Another first in the history of satellite TV. PanAmSat Corp. announced
today that it had successfully completed its first-ever live broadcast
transmissions via satellite from the Democratic People's Republic of
North Korea (DPRK). PanAmSat transmitted news coverage of the
International Investment and Business Forum, held Sept. 13-15 in Rajin,
North Korea, over PanAmSat's PAS-2 Pacific Ocean Region satellite for
NHK, Japan's national broadcaster. Japanese telecommunications operator
KDD provided ground segment services in Japan for the North Korean
Live feeds of the conference were relayed over PAS-2's Northeast Asia
beam from Rajin to NHK Studios in Tokyo. The footage was incorporated
into NHK's worldwide news service and broadcast across Asia via PAS-2's
C-band Pacific Rim Beam and throughout the Middle East and Europe in
Ku-band via the PAS-4 Indian Ocean Region satellite. 
Last year, PanAmSat became the first U.S. company to receive a type-one
telecommunications carrier license from the Japanese Ministry of Post
and Telecommunications. The license enables PanAmSat to provide
international satellite services to both Japanese and non-Japanese
companies transmitting signals to or from Japan. 
PanAmSat plans to launch four additional satellites by 1998, enabling
the company to operate multiple satellites in each ocean region
worldwide. The next launch will deploy PAS-6 over the Atlantic Ocean
Region in December 1996. 

HELIOS interferes with US election campaign
Pictures taken by French spy satellite HELIOS indicate that US missile
raids in Iraq may have been unjustified, according to French newspaper
Le Monde. The HELIOS pictures "apparently did not detect major movements
of the Republican Guard in Iraqi Kurdistan" as claimed by US officials.
US Defence Ministry officials declined to comment on the report.
HELIOS, while still not up with the capabilities of US spy satellites,
is France's first effort to become independent of US intelligence data
which very likely reaches Europe in at least a filtered, if not a
manipulated state. The satellite was developed after the 1991 Gulf War
with help from Spain and Italy.
Germany recently refused to participate in developing an advanced
version of HELIOS citing fiscal reasons. The German government, however,
might find it quite comfortable to approve of any US action without
considering the facts. And, believe it or not, even the country's
opposition party does the same (with the exception of a few dissidents.)

Satellite TV takes to the skies
Starting next summer, some of the most popular TV programming "on the
air" will also be "in the air," with more than 20 channels of
satellite-delivered programming brought to airline passengers by
DirecTV. "Live TV at 35,000 feet will be the most innovative product in
on-board services in 50 years," says Phil Bakes, Chairman and CEO of
In-Flight Phone Corporation. "Our LiveTV system will integrate with our
current FlightLink system with a color video screen and telephone at
every seat, allowing each passenger to channel surf at their seat and
watch whatever they want."
The technology will be supplied by Harris Corporation, which has
designed a cabin distribution system and a dual-polarization antenna
which maintains contact with the three existing DBS satellites. "The
LiveTV system uses the same advanced communication technology developed
by Harris to support our nation's defense and space programs over the
last 40 years," explains Phillip W. Farmer, Chairman and CEO of Harris
To conclude this round of thanksgiving and praising, Larry Chapman,
senior vice president of Special Markets and Distribution for DIRECTV,
added "We are delighted to team with IFPC and Harris to deliver
digital-quality television to airline passengers."

By Dr Sarmaz <DrSarmaz@aol.com>

Rupert kicks off women's channel, and others
A US women's channel appears to be among the first victims of Rupert
Murdoch's plans to set up a conservative Anti-CNN. His so-called Fox
News channel will also be distributed on systems run by the country's
largest cable company, TCI. There's not much space left, though, and in
some cases existing channels may be dropped. 
Lifestyle, a channel entirely dedicated to serve women's viewing needs,
will officially be dropped from two cable systems in Texas, but the
channel's senior VP for public affairs, Meredith Wagner, said she had
reason to believe that her channel will finally lose up to 300,000
TCI said it will drop other channels as well in favour of Mr Murdoch's
news channel, including E!, Court TV, Home Shopping Network, Playboy,
VH1 and Comedy Central. The company seems to be exerted to some pressure
by the US Federal Trade Commission which calls for a non-CNN channel to
be present on TCI's cable systems. TCI holds a stake in Turner
Broadcasting Systems of which CNN is a part.

Zeroes and ones
By Grandpa "Grandma" Zheng

Internet goes stereo
Finally, real-time audio over the Internet becomes commercial. For its
new version 3.0 of its Real Audio (RA) transmission standard,
Progressive Networks has announced two different players. One of them
will still be downloadable for free. The better one -- spiced up with
additional features such as one called PerfectPlay -- will be available
for US$30.
The new version 3.0 has been in beta test for a few days now, but a
final version is not expected before the end of this year. Apart from
introducing stereo to Internet broadcasting, the sound quality was once
again enhanced to be "about as good as MiniDisc and almost as good as
CD" now, according to Progressive Networks' CEO Rob Glaser.
Good news for Web publishers: They may use the so-called
"pseudo-streaming" capabilities of RA 3.0 for providing, well,
pseudo-live streams to their audience. Of course, this will allow for
just a few connections. Anybody with a really heavy audio streaming
demand will still have to acquire one of the RA servers and spend up to
tens of thousands of dollars. But that should really just matter to
radio stations.

More Audio
Here are other audio sites which prove that the audio business on the
Web is doing quite well. Both have something in common: They have agreed
to merge in a, what else, "broad-ranging strategic alliance." Premiere
Networks will join forces with AudioNet, "a leading audio broadcaster on
the Web," planning to invest US$4 million in the company. Premiere's Web
content will be integrated into the AudioNet site.

More TV
Yes, somebody finally has snatched the somewhat unique URL www.tv.com.
Who else could it be but good old Rugglesby? Wrong, it was c|net. And if
you have such an address, you better put up some content there,
hopefully nothing less than the "Entertainment Tonight" of the Internet.
There will be some TV blurb accompanying the whole thing, but just in
the US.

Cookie surfing
While preparing this issue of my unsolicited, unfair and unjust
utterings, I had four URLs to check. Given the current connection rates,
which remind me of the good old times when a 2,400-bps modem was state
of the art, I used two browser windows simultaneously. I thought that
would be quite comfortable, but it wasn't because almost every second a
"Security Alert" popped up on my screen, telling me I had received a
cookie. (Funnily enough, all of those cookies -- pieces of information
stored on *MY* hard disk in order to track my moves through a Web site
-- said they would expire on Friday, December 31, 1999 at 23:59 GMT.)
Now, I don't mind anybody to track my moves. On the other hand, nobody
else than me has the right to use my hard disk. Current browsers such as
Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 and Netscape Navigator 3.0 offer you the
possibility to reject those cookies. Well, not really. You cannot switch
this silly feature off permanently, instead you have to reject every
single cookie. I found it quite entertaining, though, to catch all the
"Security Alert" boxes that appeared during my short ride through the
WWW. Better than Pacman or Asteroids anyway. Give it a try and set up
your preferences accordingly. Just say NO to cookies! (I may repeat
myself here, I know.)

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

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