Sat-ND, 27.10.1997 Rock'n'roll, now it's easy
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DELAY OF THE DAY
Brazil still waiting for first rocket launch
Chang Zheng for Loral
Too many satellites
ITN to take Euronews stake from Alcatel Alsthom
Japan's NTV all over the world
SGS delivers Starman chip samples
Premature end of the Internet craze?
German TV is just great
The launch of Brazil's first space rocket was cancelled yesterday for technical reasons. Neither the rocket nor the satellite on board had any problems. Instead, a tracking radar malfunctioned.
The Satellite Launch Vehicle (VLS) was to put Brazil's indigenous. Data Gathering Satellite SCD-2 into low Earth orbit. Built for about US$5 million by the Brazilian Space Research Institute (Inpe), the SCD-2 it to gather "information on the environment" from an altitude of 750 km.
According to Chinese papers, Loral Space & Communications Ltd is holding talks with the country's satellite launch provider China Great Wall Industry Corp.
Hank Stackpole, president of Loral Asia Pacific operations, said in an interview he hoped to conclude the negotiations by November but didn't give any details. Instead, he was full of praise for Chang Zheng (Long March) rockets despite their disastrous failures in the past. Just two successful commercial launches were enough to trigger his remark that "these back-to-back successes have restored China to a very competitive position, with a reliability that will be taken into account by the insurance market and the industry as a whole." [Yes... one way or the other.]
Loral was also interested in joint ventures with China's aerospace industry to develop its capacity to build more advanced satellites. However, "the serious difficulties affecting American manufacturers' relationships with China stem from the restrictions imposed by our government on technology transfer and export licences."
Loral is reported to be in contact with various ministries of the country's communist government. While the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications is expected to act as a service provider for Loral's Globalstar, the U.S. company is also exploring the possibility of direct broadcast satellite systems in co-operation with the Ministry of Radio, Film and Television.
Indian software engineers have gained quite some reputation in the past. Now they're even tweaking mission-critical satellite software to run under... Windows NT.
HCL Corporation, one of India's leading computer companies, said it had won a US$500,000 contract to port elements of Intelsat's software onto a Microsoft Corp's Windows NT environment as part of Intelsat's standardisation on this platform.
Here's one of the more interesting press releases. It was issued by SRI consulting and simply says that "If just a fraction of the planned satellite communication projects become operational over the next several years, there will be an excess of satellite devices."
Okay, I cheated a bit because the sentence continues: "...that in turn could spark a price war in wireless voice services." [Yeah sure, it could, it could have other consequences as well.] Anyway, the is the essence of a new study "Next-Generation Media Technologies" by SRI Consulting. "The study focused on emerging technologies, including satellite arrays, and determined how each will impact the digital media services industry over the next decade."
U.S. and European companies combined have announced plans to place nearly 250 satellites in orbit to enable narrowband voice and data services. The study determined that although satellite services will initially target successful business professionals who can justify airtime charges ranging from US$1 to US$3 per minute, competition for this relatively small group of customers will quickly drive prices below US$1. These price drops promise to open up markets for handsets and satellite array services for mainstream consumers.
The study also examined satellite-based high-bandwidth Internet and video services beginning in 2000. According to SRI Consulting, "Some one dozen companies have announced projects totalling more than 300 of these satellites, the largest of which is Teledesic, backed by Bill Gates and Craig McCaw and in development at Boeing." [Teledesic alone needs 288 operational satellites, so the number is definitely higher than 300.]
SRI concluded that these wideband satellite arrays will have trouble competing against land-based networks that rely on fibre optics and copper cable, and which telecommunications and cable TV companies can deploy without the huge start-up costs of space programs. In addition, wideband satellite systems must overcome a number of technical barriers, which could push back their operational dates, making them vulnerable to competing wireless solutions.
Quite interesting. There will be an abundance of narrowband services, usually telephony, and that may indeed spark off a price war. On the other hand, that means that not all systems may survive. Same applies to the next-generation broadband systems: Ed Christie, director of SRI Consulting's Media Futures Program, even says "it's too early to gauge the success of Teledesic and similar projects." And that's not even the latest generation of the current satellite frenzy.
Reuters subsidiary ITN has been given green light to take over a 49-percent stake in the ailing pan-European news channel Euronews. European public broadcasters, holding the remaining 51 percent, have approved the deal.
However, there's no deal yet. French company Alcatel bought the 49-percent stake in 1995 for FF115 million and is now willing to sell it for FF55 million, reports Le Monde. Even when taking into consideration that Euronews is in need of a cash injection of some FF30 million, the price tag still speaks volumes. For 1997, an operational loss of FF36 million is anticipated.
According to French papers, the country's government has been trying hard to find some French investors but did not succeed. Thus, the public broadcasters from France, Spain, Italy and Switzerland, which dominate the channel, have agreed to selling the Alcatel stake to ITN.
The channel will stay in Lyon, France, and will also keep offering various language versions (which of course makes the appearance of on-screen presenters impossible.) Euronews can be received in 38 European and Mediterranean countries, currently offering five simultaneous language soundtracks.
Nippon Television Network Corp. (NTV) plans to start offering TV programs in other parts of Asia next April, targeting Japanese expatriates and tourists.
NTV president Seiichiro Ujiie told a news conference that programs will be broadcast to Southeast Asia and parts of the Indian subcontinent by satellite and to a Taiwanese cable network. Offering mainly news and information, programs will be mainly in Japanese and partly in English. Games of the Yomiuri Giants, a popular pro baseball club with close ties to NTV, are also being considered, Ujiie said.
"We are eyeing making broadcasts in local languages in the future which we regard as an attempt eventually to make international broadcasts to the whole world," he added [in the translation of Japan's Kyodo news agency.]
Reportedly, there has been a "relaunch" of a commercial TV channel in Hungary, according to news agencies.
It seems to me that the channel actually has been launched, maybe using some existing distribution channels. TV 3, set up by Central European Media Enterprises (CME) and local partners, hopes to attract upscale, urban viewers by offering Hollywood and European movies and TV series as well as extended news and sports programs. CME's bid to run one of two available nation-wide terrestrial TV networks recently failed. Although CME turned in the highest bid, its competitors RTL Klub and Window on Europe were granted terrestrial licenses.
In turn, they sem to have invested in TV3. In a press release, CME said the new TV3 was broadcast throughout Budapest [terrestrially, I guess] and distributed by satellite to cable TV systems across Hungary.
CME's partners in TV3 are Alliance Hungary Kft., TV3's Director General George Balo, and Peter Buzasi, who will serve as deputy director general of Budapest Communications.
Central European Media Enterprises, set up by U.S. cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder, has been building a media empire in Central and Eastern Europe. It operates national stations in the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine in conjunction with local partners. The most successful station is the Czech TV Nova. CME reportedly is also eyeing the Baltics, the Balkans and the former Soviet Union.
SGS-Thomson Microelectronics proudly announced it has presented the first samples of its Starman chipset at the recent third WorldSpace Executive Summit in Toulouse, France. The chipset is the first complete solution available to manufacturers of WorldSpace radio receivers.
The three integrated circuits (ICs) that comprise the chipset were designed and built in less than a year. The Starman chipset is the heart of receivers for the first direct-to-listener satellite system now being developed by WorldSpace for introduction in 1998. WorldSpace will operate three geostationary satellites serving a potential audience of billions in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.
However, 1998 is just a few days away. Until then, not only will there have to be mass-produced Starman chipsets but also complete receivers, which are to be manufactured by "selected consumer electronic equipment manufacturers." Oh yes, and those three satellites have to go up as well.
Maybe for the first time in history, the number of online subscribers and Internet surfers in the U.S. has declined over the past three months.
According to the Interactive Services Report (ISR) newsletter, the number of customers served by the major U.S. online services and Internet service providers dropped by three percent over the last three months. At the end of September, there were more than 600,000 less subscribers than at the end of June, when almost 20.5 million were online.
The biggest loser reportedly is CompuServe which lost nearly a quarter of its subscribers in just three months. ISR senior editor Catherine Applefeld Olson noted that "despite the decline it does not look like the Internet medium is headed for the tailspin that has been predicted in several other studies."
Recently, a reader wrote in to ask whether there was any German TV, apart from DW, available in the U.S. I commented:
Geez! Somebody out there seems to be in desperate need of Volksmusik, Helmut Kohl, government blurb on "tagesschau" and "heute" as well as six-minute ad breaks on commercial channels. Can anybody of my readers help this poor soul? I can't, of course; neither do I watch German TV nor do I live in the U.S. I'm not a masochist, am I?
Okay, first of all: nobody of Sat-ND's 1,700 readers could name any other channel than DW available in the U.S. That speaks for itself. So, I joyfully conclude that there is no German TV available in the U.S. apart from DW. Very good. They show more taste than I expected.
Secondly, I got this response from Richard Lambley in Surrey (UK,) quite obviously an expert on German media:
What a gloomy old cynic ;-) I don't watch any of the programmes you mention, and of course there's certainly a lot of old rubbish out there. But the public German TV channels also carry some wonderful, life-enhancing music programmes, including concerts and opera productions, properly funded and decently engineered. This is a type of programme we rarely get now in the UK, except for a few examples during the summer Proms season. Meanwhile, on radio there's Bayern 4 and several other excellent stations. Cherish them while you've still got them -- the grey men in suits may be just outside the door.
I just can't comment on that because any mention of Bavarian radio channels makes me wanna p*** my g*** out just because of their presenters' ghastly accent. Okay, all of these niche channels may be really valuable. They've got a major flaw, however: almost nobody here watches them or listens to them. Their market shares usually are much smaller than the margin of error of any survey. That means in effect that it's quite unclear whether they have any audience here anyway. And what good are specialised German channels when their main audience seems to be located in Surrey while the German public has to finance them? That would be quite okay if the Germans got BBC TV in return -- but they don't. Of course, the Beeb isn't that crazy.
And besides I wrote that
commercial breaks are really ... voluptuous on German TV.
Do you mean voluminous? Voluptuous means something much more fun ;-)
Oh well. To tell you the truth, most of this so-called newsletter isn't really written by me. Roughly two thirds are produced by Thesaurus, Spellchecker, AutoComplete, AutoCorrect and all those other nifty features today's advanced text processors offer. There must have been something wrong with them (and believe me, it's not a Windows 95 problem.) It's up to you to believe that explanation anyway.
Copyright 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.
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